Sunday, 10 May 2015

Tasting Jerusalem #10 – Salads

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds

Dee – July 2013’s spotlight on salads offered an extremely wide choice of recipes to choose from as they feature prominently in the book as starters, side dishes and main courses.  They range from simple salads featuring only a few ingredients, to complex and time consuming dishes containing the long lists of ingredients that have become one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s calling cards.
I have already included one salad as part of the Tasting Jerusalem project when I prepared the Fattoush for 2013’s focus on Sumac (click here to read the entry).  That was one of the more involved dishes, adapted from one of Sami Tamimi’s family recipes, so I decided to try out one of the simpler recipes:  Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds on page 30.
This salad turned out to be simple to follow, quick to prepare and there was little trouble obtaining the ingredients.  I didn’t use Medjool dates, though they are available in most international or large high street supermarkets now, as is sumac, the only other less readily available ingredient in the recipe.
The only cooking required for the salad was toasting almonds and frying chunks of pitta bread.  It was important to leave them to cool, otherwise they would have wilted the spinach, which although it would still have been edible, the texture would be disrupted and the salad wouldn’t look so good.  Red onion slices and chopped dates also needed time to marinate in a mixture of vinegar and salt.
Once this was all done, both preparations were tossed together with the spinach leaves and the whole salad dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and chilli flakes.
Jay and me both loved this salad.  It was another fabulous dish made up of a careful balance of a few ingredients.  It was particularly important to achieve that balance with this salad as it contained a wide range of tastes; mild spinach, tart lemon juice and sumac, sweet dates, toasted almonds, crispy pitta and rich olive oil.  All of these came through clearly in the salad with none of them overpowering any of the others. 
The only compromise I made from the published recipe was to use Deglet Noor dates rather than the specified Medjool dates, as stated previously.  This was due more to the fact that I had enough of them at home to make the salad than any difficulty obtaining the larger sweeter Medjools.  I don’t think the salad suffered at all because of this.  The dates delivered the sweetness that was needed.
We made the full quantity of the salad so will be looking forward to another helping, probably for lunch tomorrow.  For storage purposes, we will be keeping the spinach leaves separate from the other ingredients just in case the marinate dates cause them to wilt.
As there are so many salad recipes in the book, we are certain to be making more in the future.

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest

(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the web site)


  1. Shortly after starting Tasting Jerusalem, I taught a cooking class with this salad as part of it - people were a bit incredulous at the combination but when we sat down to lunch, not a leaf was left. It's easy to prepare and wonderful to eat - you can even add a protein and call it a meal.

    1. Good to hear it went down well at the class. I've been familiar with dates in savoury recipes for a few years so was well prepared for it. We'll definitely make this salad again.