Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spinach Salad, Greek-Style

What is it about sweet and salty garnishes that makes eating your greens so easy? Think pear and blue cheese salads, greens with gorgonzola dolce and a drizzle of balsamico, even a warm spinach salad with a bacon-cider dressing.

While these combinations might not be so virtuous, they're delicious.

About a month ago, I had my first taste of halloumi – a Greek cheese made of goat and sheep’s milk - what an experience. Perfectly seared and served piping hot with a drizzle of honey, I ate it atop torn pieces of a fresh-baked tender flatbread. So good.

While I was initially hesitant about ordering a dish made solely of cheese, I became instantly enamored with this Greek cheese. The flavor is strong and salty, very different from other cheeses I’ve eaten before. It also has a higher melting point, allowing you to grill or fry slices without it losing its integrity.

Halloumi is a wonderful and flavorful addition to many salads. I’ve paired the salty cheese with juicy pears and a light maple vinaigrette in this salad that is good to serve whenever you can get your hands on a ripe pear. Feel free to swap out the spinach for another green, or try a different fruit -- in the summer, I’d pair cubes of halloumi with sun-ripened watermelon and fresh baby arugula.

As published on The Daily Meal

1 shallot, finely minced
1/3 cup champagne vinegar
1/3 cup maple syrup
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup grapeseed oil, plus more for sautéing 
One 8-ounce package Halloumi One 6-ounce package baby spinach
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
1 ripe pear, preferably Comice
Honey, for garnish
Herbes de Provence or fresh rosemary or thyme, for garnish

In a 2-cup Ball jar, combine the shallot, vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the salad. Right before tossing the salad, add the oil and shake well to homogenize. Test for seasoning.

Heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Slice halloumi and dry off slices. Add a little oil to the pan, and then add the slices. Sear about 5 minutes per side, until golden.

Finely chop spinach and toss with dressing. Thinly slice pear and lay in a circle on a plate. Add salad on top, then halloumi slices and pine nuts. Drizzle with a bit of honey and herbs and serve.

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