food + drink · salads

crunchy dates, spinach and pine nut salad with orange vinaigrette

Depending on personal taste dates are sometimes eaten and enjoyed at various stages of ripeness and just like my other half, many people like eating dates that are firm and have not matured to full ripeness! These dates referred to as bis-err (phonetically spelt), are crisp, a little fibrous and have a slight puckering mouthfeel when first chewed… but then release this mild honey-sugarcane like sweetness with a slight nuttiness, which is really quite pleasant!  Sold at markets, each variety of date has its own colour and taste.

My preferences are fresh and dried dates, however, I have grown to like the taste of firm dates (bis-err) which are very different from the sugary sweet and almost gooey fresh dates, also in the photograph above. As you can see not all dates ripen at the same time.

With a bag-full of baby spinach in the fridge and these crunchy dates reminding me of apples, I decided to make a quick salad with an orange vinaigrette dressing for a quick bite to eat. Serving this salad with a nice piece of grilled fish would have made a more filling meal… but I was trying to make up for all those sweet ripe dates that I have overly consumed lately!

When making a leafy salad one piece of kitchen equipment that I would not be without is my salad spinner. Why go down the Mr Bean route, stuffing wet lettuce leaves in a sock and swinging them around, spraying water all over the place!

Using endless pieces of paper kitchen roll to dry each salad leaf seems such a waste and takes time,  a quick couple of spins in a salad spinner and your done! Great for storing  washed salad leaves in when entertaining… ready for those last minutes needed to assemble and dress a salad quickly, especially when using delicate leaves like baby spinach!

Crunchy Dates, Spinach and Pine Nut Salad with Orange Vinaigrette 


  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 4 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
  • 12 firm dates, cut in half, stone removed and sliced thinly or you can use soft dried dates instead

For the vinaigrette

  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 4 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons apple vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • fine sea salt, to taste

How to make: First make the dressing and set aside. In a large salad bowl add the pine nuts, baby spinach and dates. Just before serving pour over the orange vinaigrette and gently toss all ingredients together. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

How to make vinaigrette: Add the orange zest, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, apple cider and honey into a bowl. Slowly pour in the oil while whisking continuously until well emulsified. Season with salt. Set aside for about 10 minutes for the flavours to mingle before using. The salad dressing can be made several hours in advance, covered and stored in the fridge.