Summer is by far my favorite season! I seem to have an emotional attachment, perhaps because it's the season I was born in. All I have to do is take one step onto the cool crisp grass with my bare feet and I'm instantly taken back to my childhood. But aside from the nostalgia, warm breezes and carefree summer nights, it's all about the food! Summer produce makes cooking a breeze. Who doesn't love that?! It's so easy to combine your favorite fruits and vegetables into dishes like pasta and salads. This week's Spinach Salad with Peaches and Gorgonzola is the perfect example of how easy it is to make a great tasting summer inspired meal.
The Key to Great Tasting Summer Salads
Use fresh ingredients.
It may sound obvious but fresh ingredients are the key to great tasting salads. Wilted or discolored greens are immediately a turn off for me. If you want the best texture and flavor from your salads, make sure your greens are not sitting out of the fridge too long, especially in summer when humidity and heat can really take a toll. If you want to prepare your salad ahead of time, make sure to prep ingredients separately and then refrigerate when necessary until ready to serve. Nuts and seeds tend to lose their crispness when refrigerated so keep them at room temperature. When you're ready to eat you can simply toss everything together. Always add dressing last to preserve the texture of the salad.
When using fruit, make sure it's ripe.
Again, without sounding obvious, this tip can make a huge difference in the flavor of your salad. The riper the fruit is the sweeter it will be. Fruit that is slightly sour and/or too firm can be unpleasant and disappointing. So, be patient and plan ahead. If you know you want to use a particular fruit in a dish, make sure to give it some time to ripen, if necessary. It will be worth the wait.
You may also notice you need to use less dressing when the fruit is juicy and flavorful. This can be key if you're trying to cut back on calories, as we all know dressings can pack a hefty punch in terms of caloric density.
Add different textures.
Combining different textures like raw crunchy vegetables with softer ripened fruits adds complexity to your salad. Building on textures with nuts, seeds, cheeses and whole grains can make the difference between a boring salad or one that you can't wait to dig into. In doing so, you're also more likely to be adding more nutritional value in the form of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Spinach Salad Ingredients
- Spinach- I'll be honest, spinach is not my favorite type of salad green. However, I do love it with fruity salads like this. When served crisp along with the sweetness of the fruit and tanginess of the gorgonzola, I seem to forget I'm eating something really healthy.
- Peaches- There is nothing like biting into a perfectly ripe and juicy peach in the summer. If you don't have peaches on hand you could also use nectarines or even strawberries would work nicely.
- Candied Walnuts- The nutty sweet flavor of candied walnuts adds another dimension of flavor that I think is really key to this salad.
- Gorgonzola- Salty, tangy and creamy this blue cheese compliments the sweetness of the peaches and candied walnuts. You could also keep this recipe vegan by substituting a delicious herbed vegan cashew cheese. Miyoko's make delicious vegan cheeses that I've used many times for this salad.
- Red Onions- Aside from adding a beautiful pop of color, thin slices of red onion boost the savory element of this salad.
- Balsamic Dressing- I used a regular store bought balsamic dressing for this salad to save some time, but you could easily make your own at home by whisking together a bit of vinegar, olive oil, garlic salt, pepper and Italian herbs.
Recipe Substitutions + Add Ons
- You can easily substitute your favorite summer fruit here. Nectarines, strawberries and apricots would also be a great choice.
- If you are allergic to nuts or even if you're not, pumpkin or sunflower seeds could be a delicious substitution or add on in this salad.
- Make it vegan by using any vegan cheese that has a sharp punch.
- If you don't have red onions, shallots would also be mild enough for this recipe.
- For added texture try some crispy croutons, or serve with your favorite crackers.
If you liked this recipe, you may also enjoy this Tomato & Cucumber Salad with Bocconcini.
Spinach Salad with Peaches & Gorgonzola
- 6 cups spinach leaves
- 2 peaches thinly sliced
- ¼ cup candied walnuts crushed
- ¼ cup Gorgonzola crumbled (or favorite blue cheese crumbled)
- ½ red onion thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar dressing favorite store bought or homemade version
- In a medium to large bowl, add the spinach, peaches, onions and walnuts together and toss to combine.
- Add the dressing and toss again.
- Sprinkle with Gorgonzola cheese.
- Serve immediately (add more cheese, walnuts or dressing as desired).