Holiday Spinach Salad with Low-Fat Vinaigrette Dressing

One of my favorite salads to serve during the Christmas season is “Holiday Spinach Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing”. It is colorful–with green spinach and red cherry tomatoes–the fruit adds a nice flavor and the light dressing doesn’t overpower the salad. I always get many compliments when it is served.

Holiday Spinach Salad with Vinegarette - IMG_1248_1

After moving to Louisiana, I discovered that many restaurants in New Orleans served a French Vinaigrette Dressing on lettuce salads. It was really a vinegar and oil dressing. The dressing used in my recipe is one I’ve adapted over the years based on the vinegar and oil traditional “French Dressing”, and it is now one of my favorites. It’s much lower in oil than the original ones. I use pineapple or mandarin orange juice in the dressing, giving the salad a fruity flavor.

For the greens, I use a combination of spinach and iceberg lettuce. The iceberg lettuce adds crunch, color and makes the salad less dense. And spinach is rich in Vitamins C and A.

Does it grow in Louisiana gardens?

Spinach is a vegetable that grows well in Louisiana gardens at this time of year. In past years, I’ve planted spinach in October and it was just right for picking in December. It grows well in cooler weather and can still be planted from seedlings. I’ve got a favorite Nursery store that stocks a wide selection of varieties of vegetables. It’s easy to select too many plants for my small garden spot.

Back to the salad:

The other ingredients added to this salad can vary with one’s imagination. I always use mandarin oranges–satsuma orange sections are used here–pineapple tidbits, avocados, cherry tomatoes and green onions. Of course, all these ingredients are optional and can be omitted if you don’t like one. Other additions include mushrooms, red or green peppers, red onions, fresh parsley, croutons, Parmesan cheese, bacon bits.

The salad dressing is much lower in oil, hence, lower in calories than original recipes. Traditional french dressing has a ratio of 1 cup oil to 1/3 cup vinegar; mine has 1/3 cup oil to 2/3 cups vinegar/fruit juice. It’s just enough oil to coat the salad, I wouldn’t reduce it further. I use either canola oil or soybean oil, not olive oil. I use some of the juice from the pineapple tidbits or mandarin oranges in the salad dressing.

Blend all the ingredients, except the oil, in a small food processor or blender. Then slowly pour in the oil. It makes a smooth emulsion–but will separate out if made too far ahead.

Have all the other ingredients mixed ahead of time in a salad bowl, then add the dressing at serving. Lastly scatter the tomatoes and some of the fruit around the edges and serve. It’s a healthy and colorful holiday salad.

Holiday Spinach Salad:

4 oz fresh spinach, washed and torn in bite size pieces (if the spinach contains large leaves)
1/4 head iceberg lettuce, shredded into bite size pieces
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
2 green onions and part of the tops, sliced
1-8 oz can mandarin oranges, drained (reserve juice) or 1 cup fresh satsuma orange sections (2 oranges)
1-11 oz can pineapple tidbits, drained (reserve juice)
1 cup cherry tomatoes

  • Mix spinach, lettuce, avocado and green onions in salad bowl.
  • Drain the mandarin oranges, (or use fresh satsuma orange sections) and pineapple tidbits and reserve 1/3 cup of the juice. Reserve a few of the fruit pieces for garnish and add the rest to the salad bowl and toss.
  • Add about half of the cherry tomatoes and toss. Save the rest for garnish.
  • Chill.

Low-Fat Vinaigrette Dressing:

1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup pineapple juice reserved from salad (or use mandarin orange juice if you don’t like pineapple)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/3 cup canola or soy oil

  • Place red wine vinegar, pineapple juice, Dijon mustard, salt and white pepper in small food processor or blender and pulse to combine. With food processor running, slowly stream in the oil until emulsified. Chill, if made ahead of time.

To Serve:

  • Immediately before serving, add the salad dressing to the salad and toss to combine.  Shake the salad dressing container in needed to re-emulsify the dressing.
  • Place the reserved pineapple, mandarin oranges and cherry tomatoes around the edges of the salad for garnish.
  • Serve with selection of croutons, bacon bits,  fresh Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6.

 

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