Spinach is an amazingly resilient plant. It grows (and thrives) even in snowfall. Every year, I’m amazed to see it at our local farm stands, even in December. Here on the east end of Long Island, the last farm stand closes on December 31st, so I can count on local spinach all the way until New Years’. It is always such a treat to be able to have local greens on my table for Christmas and New Years’. The local spinach is sturdy, yet delicate enough to eat raw in a salad.
Many people feel the need to break off the stems and use only the leaves in salad. This is not only unnecessary, but wrong–the stems are even more delicate in flavor than the leaves. I like to chop the leaves (stems and all) crosswise into ribbons and use the whole thing as a hearty salad.
The idea of using winter squash in a salad was one I learned from Mario at Po restaurant. We made a salad this time of year that consisted of cubes of cooked butternut squash, roasted peppers and goat cheese. It was topped with a giant, festive caper berry. I loved the combination, but today I wanted something even simpler.
Spinach, dressed with my agave-laced red wine vinegar and olive oil , surrounded by sweet cubes of squash and topped with a slab of creamy, artisanal herbed goat cheese was perfect for a bright, light brunch.
Salad of Spinach, Kabocha and Goat Cheese
makes 4 large salads
1 lb fresh spinach
2 cups cooked kabocha squash cubes (see kabocha squash, calabrese style)
4 oz. herbed goat cheese
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp agave
1 tbl extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Wash and dry spinach well and remove any root ends from the stems. Cut stems into 1/2″ ribbons.
In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle spinach with vinegar, agave, oil, salt and pepper. Toss and taste for salt. Arrange on large plates with squash and top with goat cheese and additional back pepper.