Spinach is both a superfood and a nutritional paradox. It’s one of the most popular leafy greens—high in vitamins K, A, E, and C and minerals iron, calcium, and magnesium—and yet it can be very difficult to digest, particularly if consumed raw.
Spinach has both a heating and drying effect in the body, which is rare in the food world, so it’s important to keep that in mind.
To mitigate the dryness, you want to include sufficient healthy fats in a spinach salad to add hydration and balance it out.
Uncooked spinach contains oxalic acid, which is counter-indicated for kidney stones, which is commonly composed of calcium oxalate. This acid can also be irritating for folks with sensitive digestive systems.
Don’t be alarmed though. Spinach is very good for you. With raw spinach, enjoy it in smaller portions. You need only be concerned if you are eating raw spinach daily, or perhaps juicing it daily.
With this warm spinach salad recipe, we’ve pulled out all the stops to make sure that you have a flavorful and enjoyable dish, without any of the negative downsides.
It’s perfect for the fall and winter seasons, and could be an addition to your next Thanksgiving or holiday dinner table.
About the ingredients
Spinach is acidifying and stimulating due to its rich flavor profile and combination of hot, light, and dry qualities.
In today’s warm spinach salad recipe, we’ve included ghee, digestive spices fennel and cardamom, apple, pecan, and avocado to bring balance to the spinach leaves.
Let’s see how we balance out spinach by combining it with other foods.
Ghee: the easiest to digest of healthy fats; nourishing, calms the nervous system. A second choice would be olive oil.
Fennel: cooling, liver soothing, anti-spasmodic, digestive
Coriander: a cooling digestive aid and diuretic that supports the removal of toxins through the urine
Black pepper: adds digestive support
Apples: cooked apple is sweet, tonic, moistening, mildly cleansing and a very welcome bite in this recipe. Notably, raw apples are astringent and light like spinach. Cooking makes them heavier and more balancing in this dish.
Pecans: heavy and sweet again balances out the light and dry of the spinach. Walnuts are an obvious substitute, but walnuts are astringent and hot, similar to spinach.
Balsamic vinegar: warming; pleasing sweet and sour taste, assists in the digestion of fats
Avocados: very cooling, moistening, and a healthy fat. Whenever enjoying avocado, you want to support it with something warming, such as black pepper, lemon or lime.
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How to make
This is a lightly cooked spinach salad that serves two, so you’ll need a medium skillet. It only takes a few minutes to cook.
Start on medium heat and add the ghee, along with the chopped pecans. You want to have the pecans cooked and lightly browned.
Next, you add the powdered spices of fennel and cardamom and sizzle them in the ghee. Sizzling the spices in ghee wakes up their medicinal properties and flavors.
Next, you add the sliced onions and apples, which get lightly cooked.
Finally, the spinach leaves are lightly tossed, so that the leaves are mostly wilted but not fully cooked.
After serving, you garnish with avocado slices and balsamic vinegar for a dressing.
From the recipe contributor
This recipe was contributed by one of my Happy Eater students, Wendy Morris.
She applied what she learned about cooking spices in ghee and made some really smart choices about what to combine with spinach.
I have modified it slightly to make it even more balanced and chose to wilt the spinach leaves to make the dish more digestible.
Wendy says that she really enjoys this salad with walnuts. This is her photo. "Every time I see this picture, I am drooling, YUM YUM," says Wendy.
Wendy also adds that this recipe is “so versatile.” Depending on the season and how you feel, you can add and experiment with this salad.
You could steam some veggies, such as carrots or cauliflower, or sauté okra along with the spices and onions before adding the quick-cooking apple. Or leave the apple out.
Or maybe you roast some root vegetables and combine them with the spinach salad.
Shrimp is also good with it, Wendy says. The possibilities are endless. “So good,” says Wendy.
Recipe for Warm Spinach Salad
Helpful Kitchen Tools:
For the sauté
- 1 teaspoon ghee, (sub with olive oil)
- 2 tablespoon pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped
- ¼ teaspoon coriander powder
- ¼ teaspoon fennel powder
- pinch black pepper
- ¼ cup red onion, sliced
- ½ apple, cored and sliced into thin pieces
- pinch Himalayan pink salt
- 4 cups baby spinach, washed and dried
To assemble the salad
- ½ avocado, (optional)
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Prepare your ingredients
- Prepare the spinach by rinsing in cold water and spinning with a salad spinner if needed. If you have pre-washed spinach, skip this step.
- Slice the onions and apples, and get out the coriander, fennel, black pepper and pecans. Roughly chop pecans if needed.
Cook the salad
- Add ghee to a medium skillet on medium heat. Add pecans or walnuts and sauté until lightly browned. Add cardamom, fennel, and black pepper, and sizzle gently for 20 seconds. Add the onions and apples, along with a pinch of salt, and stir until the onions wilt.
- Add prepared spinach into the salad and toss continuously for 30 seconds. Immediately transfer into a serving bowl. The spinach leaves should be only partially cooked or wilted.
- Garnish with optional avocado slices. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!