Many (many!) years ago, the restaurant in the Agate Beach Hilton Hotel in Newport Beach produced a wonderful spinach salad. The two key ingredients were toasted pine nuts and a tangy-yet-caramely dressing. Many excursions to the coast were highlighted with this special offering. It was that good.
Unfortunately, the Hilton packed up its spinach salad recipe and blew town. However, my attempt to clone their specialty was relatively successful — at least as far as my mental palate is concerned. Worth-The-Trip! Spinach salad is now a Dominguez house specialty.
Another one of my favorites is a Spinach Salad with 5-Minute Egg, inspired by "SALAD" by Amy Nathan (Chronicle Books). The spinach is dressed in a light vinaigrette, placed on individual serving plates and topped with a carefully peeled soft-cooked egg. The stark-white egg nestled atop the emerald leaves is a sight to behold; and the flavor combination of the egg, spinach and dressing is heavenly. When a diner breaks into the 5-minute egg, the semi-firm yolk will run ever-so-slightly over the rest of the salad.
But I’ve had mixed reviews with this creation, which brings us to the number one rule of salad construction — be it spinach or a simple mixed green: know your diners’ tastes. Some people are experimenters by nature, while others need a more gentle introduction to the world of artful salads.
For those of us who do appreciate the flavor and crunch of a well-turned spinach salad — particularly during these winter months when the quality and price of lettuce is about as predictable as a lottery ticket — I’ve decided this is a great time to share a few of my favorites. Besides, fresh and tender young spinach leaves are a delectable alternative to Romaine lettuce while we are all waiting for its reappearance into the produce aisle. Sources tell me that we might still be a week or two away from supermarkets being able to offer romaine.