Autumn Salad: Spinach with Sweet Potatoes, Farro, Dill, Shallots, Almonds and Za’atar Vinaigrette
2 entree sized salads
I’m a firm believer that there’s a salad for almost every occasion in life. For me personally, I have salads for different seasons… or just when I want to feel like J.Lo (seriously I made a salad inspired by two of her favorite lunches.) If you’re curious or if you want to transport to summer, heat wave season (I consider 90 degrees and higher to be its own season) or winter, you can check out those seasonal salads too. There are also more salad options if you just go to my homepage and search “salad.” I’m an open salad recipe book what can I say!!! Funny, considering I used to hate eating veggies <3 But I think that’s why I’m actually good at making salads.
At this rate, you should probably start a drinking game for every time I say “salad” in this blog post.
Ok but now let’s talk about why we’ve gathered here today. We all have interest in the ~*autumn-y salad*~. Some restaurants may call something like this a “fall harvest salad” but I don’t really consider this to be a collection of ingredients that are only harvested during fall. This salad embodies fall, but also holds onto summer a little bit. There’s comfort tied in with some fresh, bright flavors too. It’s really a September salad. Should I start making salads of the month? I think I might have to…. Anyway, a lot of fall harvest salads have a sweet/savory combo, and are full of ingredients like squash, apples, nuts, seeds, grains, cheese, pomegranate, or aromatic and spicy seasoned chicken or proteins. This salad has some of these things. It isn’t *too* comforting to make me feel like I’m in hibernation already. (I mean, I know we are all quarantining, but winter is a whole different level of hibernation for us.)
I decided to go with a spinach base and add some sweet potatoes, farro and almonds for an extra fall-y vibe. Then, I jazzed it up with some finely chopped shallots because I believe we could all use a little onion in our lives (if you’re not an onion lover, please skip,) fresh dill for grassy earthy vibes, and za’atar lemon vinaigrette to tie everything together with some herbal brightness. If you don’t have za’atar in your pantry, feel free to just use dried oregano, marjoram and thyme and mix it with the olive oil, lemon juice and salt. If you do have some time to get your ingredients before you want to make this, I am going to link some za’atar options below because this Middle Eastern spice is a true game changer. If you put za’atar on toast, eggs, veggies, meat, fish…honestly anything, it changes the dish entirely and brings an elevated tangy, herbal and nutty flavor.
If you have all the ingredients for this, then you’re set to go on to the recipe. If you don’t, here are some substitutes. If you can’t find sweet potatoes, feel free to use yams, butternut squash, acorn squash or kabocha squash prepared the same way. No spinach? Arugula, leafy green medleys from the store or kale also go nicely here. Kale will give you a little more bitterness and crunch, while leafy greens will be more mild and delicate. If you can’t find fresh dill, opt for fennel fronds or fresh parsley instead. If you don’t have almonds, go for pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds… almost any other nut works here, even candied nuts would go nicely and compliment the sweet potatoes. No farro? Quinoa, brown rice or wild rice go perfectly here as well. If you use farro, cook it in an equal part mixture of vegetable stock and water. It will give the grain a heartier flavor and further contribute to all those comforting feels.
|2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes|
|1tbsp olive oil, for seasoning potatoes|
|Salt, to taste, for seasoning|
|Pepper, to taste, for seasoning|
|1/2cup uncooked farro|
|Water or vegetable stock, amount depends on farro cooking instructions|
|1/2cup fresh dill, coarsley chopped|
|4cups fresh spinach leaves, washed and dried|
|1/3cup raw almonds, roughly chopped|
|1 large shallot, finely chopped, can use 2 small shallots|
|Lemon Za'atar Vinaigrette|
|1 1/2tsp dried za'atar|
|3tbsp olive oil|
|1tbsp lemon juice|
|Pinch of salt|
|Freshly cracked black pepper|
In a mixing bowl, drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil over the sweet potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste and then toss until the sweet potatoes are fully coated in the oil, salt and pepper mixture.
Lay the sweet potato cubes evenly onto a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes on the middle rack in your oven, until the potatoes smell sweet and are tender and golden brown on all sides.
While the farro cooks and the sweet potatoes bake, measure and prepare the other salad ingredients and make the vinaigrette. For the vinaigrette, combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a mason jar or bowl and shake or whisk until fully combined. Taste the dressing with a spoon to make sure the salt, herbs and acid levels are to your liking.
When the farro is done cooking, toss it with a fork to release the steam and cool it down a little bit. When the potatoes are done, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes or so.
In a large salad bowl, combine the spinach, dill, shallots, sweet potatoes and farro. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette until all the ingredients are fully coated.
Plate the salad and top with crushed almonds. Serve immediately and enjoy!