06 October 2012

Bookshelf:Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem

I am with Oscar when it comes to temptation.

The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it... I can resist everything but temptation.  
Oscar Wilde

And when I was at Cook the Books for a cooking class and spotted the new Ottolenghi book Jerusalem I could only yield to temptation. I couldn’t wait to open it and see what delights would present themselves. And it doesn’t disappoint, you will salivate over the stunning photography and then there are the recipes.  Inspiring combinations of flavours are again on display.

The book is actually by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  Yotam from the Jewish west and Sami for the Muslin east didn’t meet until they they were both in the UK.  It was here that they melded there native tastes and flavours and added their unique spin to create all those many amazing dishes that they are so well known for, a little exotic and wonderfully original.  Like Plenty; inspiring, colourful and tantalising vegetarian dishes abound (temptation that I will most definitely be yielding to!).  There are also tasty options for carnivores and fish and seafood lovers.  So far I can attest that the Lamb Shawarma and Chicken with Caramelised Onions with Cardamon Rice are fragrant, bursting with flavour and more than likely to be making several encore appearances.

For me I also love the anecdotes and stories about their different Jerusalems, as it is a totally different perspective than what we would usually be exposed to via media and newspapers. The book is peppered with notes on culture and history alongside a story of the food of Jerusalem and their childhood there; a melting pot of cuisines, cultures and religions it is varied and exotic. It is a totally new perspective for me and it makes me want to go there and eat!

I was picking up spices on the weekend, actually to make the Lamb Shawarma, and I saw some wonderful dates.  I bought them with no idea what I was going to do with them, they just looked so fresh and sweet they had to be purchased. Browsing through Jerusalem I came across this salad, Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds. I was sold and it was the perfect way to use those dates.  

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem


Serves 4

1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
100g pitted fresh dates, quartered lengthways
30g unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large pita, roughly torn in to bite sized peices
75g whole almonds, roughly chopped
2 tsp sumac
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
150g baby spinach leaves
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper


Place the vinegar in a bowl alongside the red onion and dates.  Add a pinch of salt and mix well together and then leave to marinate for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes drain and discard any remaining liquid.

Place the butter and half the olive oil in a medium frying pan over a medium heat and add the pita and almonds.  Fry until golden and crisp, stirring all the time.  Remove from the heat and place in a bowl. Add the sumac, chilli flakes, season with salt and pepper and mix well. Set aside to cool.

Once cool toss the the baby spinach leaves with the pita and almonds in a large bowl.  Add the dates and red onion along with the rest of the olive oil and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

What can I say?  It is a beautiful salad, the green spinach flecked with the pink of the onions, golden crispy pita, succulent dates and crunchy almonds.  And then the flavours a little fresh and sharp, a little sweet, a little toasty, a little nutty.  I don’t think I need say anymore. You should probably just yield to temptation and get your mitts on a copy of Jerusalem quick smart, it will brighten your salads and enliven your tastebuds and that is before we even touch on meat, fish or desserts!

If you like this you might like this Green Herby Omelette with Spinach & Feta Salad
One year ago Asian Slaw



  1. This looks really gorgeous! I reaaaally want that book so bad, it's probably agood thing I have to wait or I wouldn't be able to stop myself from turning my blog into a complete Ottolenghi shrine. All his stuff is irresistable to me..

  2. This book came from an amazing documentary they did on food in Jerusalem. If you get the chance to see it I know you'll love it. The thing I love most about Ottolenghi is his focus on freshness and flavours. This is another example of that. Have added it to my Christmas wish list :o)

    1. Thanks for the tip Julie, I would love to see it. You won't be disappointed :)

  3. I'm going to take this blog post as a sign to buy Jerusalem. I've had myself under a "no more cookbooks" advisory, mainly because the bookcases in this house are groaning. But I could just start storing them under the bed I guess. Thanks for the temptation.

    1. Yes this one totally made it past the "no more cookbooks" :)

  4. My copy arrives next week! I can't wait to dive into it and start cooking. This recipe you shared sounds divine - your photo is stunning!

    1. Exciting! Can't wait to see what you cook from it.


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