If you grew up on Long Island in the 70s, you most likely remember the popular dish, spinach salad. Served in the den on TV trays when your parents had friends over, and paired with Fresca (yours) or a jug of Carlo Rossi “Chablis” (theirs), the original recipe endures: warm bacon dressing, raw red onion, hard-boiled eggs, and no-frills white button mushrooms. But at this point in time, its ingredients—even the spinach—are open to a bit of subtle modern interpretation.
As East End farms slowly awaken this spring, you can find this cool-weather vegetable, freshly harvested, bundled and ready to eat at most local stands and farmers’ markets. Baby spinach in particular tastes delicious when freshly picked. With the nutrition-packed vegetable’s tendency to bolt and get bitter as the days lengthen and temperatures warm, harvest time is important to get the best leaves.
Florence Fabricant, East Hampton resident and nationally renowned food writer and columnist to the New York Times dining section may know this best.
“I like to gather my spinach—and for a salad you want it to be as young as possible,” says Fabricant, “In season, I look for it at either Balsam Farms in Amagansett or the Green Thumb in Water Mill because they’re organic.”
Fabricant’s spinach salad recipe (from her celebrated The Ladies Village Improvement Society Cookbook: Eating and Entertaining in East Hampton, Rizzoli) brings a delectable twist to the classic components by adding endive (“not local, but available to enliven greens in early spring”) and a warm dressing of Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar, mellowed with sautéed red onions, as opposed to raw.
The crunch of coarsely chopped pecans adds the final touch to the salad that Fabricant describes as “something of a blank slate. Other ingredients, like sautéed mushrooms, bacon, cucumbers, slivered prosciutto, and chopped hard-boiled egg, can be added. You can even toss in chunks of feta cheese and olives to give it a touch of sunny Greece.”
Since we’re bringing spinach salad into new territory, let’s ditch the Fresca and the Rossi. Pair it with something local and far superior in your glass, like Lenz’s crisp, steel-fermented Chardonnay. You can still have it in the den on TV trays if you like.
(Recipe reprinted from The Ladies Village Improvement Society Cookbook: Eating and Entertaining in East Hampton by Florence Fabricant, Rizzoli, New York. Available for purchase at the LVIS Bargain Box Thrift Shop and BookHampton.)
Florence Fabricant’s spinach and endive salad
- 12 oz baby spinach, thoroughly washed and torn
- 2 endives, quartered lengthwise, core removed, slivered on an angle
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans