Spinach Salad With Apples and Maple Vinaigrette


This is a short-but-sweet recipe just meant to get the seasonal culinary juices flowing!  I served this recently with a bacon and sweet potato galette on an evening when we desperately wanted it to be autumn, but were still a couple of days early.  The combination gave us the satisfaction of seasonal flavors, but kept things light and cool enough to enjoy on a still-80-degrees October evening after a beautiful 15-knot afternoon on the lake.

No sooner had we crossed back into the harbor from our zippy afternoon sail, but things went dead calm, and there was that 80-degrees again.  Time for something quick from the galley.

Spinach Salad With Apples and Maple Vinaigrette

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2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
3-4 cups (handfuls) fresh spinach
2 apples
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Start by making your vinaigrette.  This is a basic Dijon, but with cider vinegar in place of wine and a hit of maple syrup, which really complements the apples while the rich sweetness works well with spinach.  Whisk a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon of maple syrup and a heaping teaspoon of Dijon mustard together in a bowl and add salt and pepper to taste.  Realistically…I don’t measure these things out; just start with the olive oil and as you add the vinegar and syrup they will pool up in little distinct puddles and, as long as they are about half the amount of the olive oil, you’re good…then add a glob of mustard.  If you are somehow stuck using pancake syrup instead of real maple — honestly I’ve never tried it, but you will almost certainly want to add a bit more to get any decent maple flavor; having added more sugar, though, you might need a bit more mustard and/or vinegar.  If you are plagued by such a conundrum, keep playing and tasting, and good luck!

Slice a couple of apples — I like one tart granny smith and one more sweet, like Fuji or Honeycrisp — directly into the vinaigrette.  If you give them a stir as you go, they’ll start picking up the tangy flavor AND not turn brown.

Throw in a handful — maybe 1/4 cup — of pumpkin seeds.  I didn’t toast mine and I regretted it: throw them in a dry, hot frying pan for 3 minutes or so, shaking the pan until they toast up and a few start to pop.  Give this all a good toss — it’s easier to get the vinaigrette evenly distributed with the smaller things and the bowl not full…then if you can’t toss the full greens as well, the additions will carry the flavor.  Then add your spinach and toss as well as you can.

I was making this to go with a strongly-flavored galette, so I stopped here, but other delicious additions include dried cherries or cranberries, and a cheese like goat or blue crumbles — and always, bacon.  You can also substitute pecans or walnuts for the pepitas.  The base of hearty spinach, tart apples, and sweet-savory vinaigrette with a hint of maple is so perfect for the season. See…told you it was a short post; some things get thrown together last minute as accompaniments, but are too good to let get buried as an aside in another post!  Someone will see this in the recipe list and say “YES…that’s what I was craving! Arrrrr!”

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