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Now then. If you’ve read ‘Melanzane Parmigiana’, you’ll already know about me and spinach and our love-at-first-bite; how we met, hooked up and had many delicious children. It’s been a marriage made in super-food heaven. I must confess, however, that I’ve subsequently embarked on a no-holds-barred bigamous relationship with chocolate Philadelphia and I even have a recipe (of sorts) in which its used, but I don’t think I dare share it in case someone sues me for causing a coronary.
Before anyone helpfully points it out, I am fully aware that this dish is a bit of a cheat (I’ve been working on my self-awareness, honest) as this recipe can’t in all good conscience be called cooking. It’s more ‘artful assembly’… but so gorgeous I just had to share. In terms of origins, I’ll cut right to the chase. I basically nicked the idea from Strada, though I’m quite convinced it isn’t plagiarism as there are now a whole host of ingredients-related differences. It’s came about because of the old ‘what do I eat in a pizza place when I’m a)veggie and b)not too good when it comes to wheat’ chestnut, without chestnuts. A few swap-requests later and hey presto the perfect salad was born.
At risk of coming across a bit flaky, the photo isn’t entirely representational. I was missing some vital ingredients, couldn’t go out in case the repair man came whilst I was at the shop, so decided that such was the urgency to share that I would put it together with what I had in the house and get the photo taken. It’s pretty, don’t you think? I’ve even created a new category – ‘green’ – in its honour. The full XXX-rated version is almost too divine to contemplate, with the added bonus of being so calm on the blood sugar that your pancreas would give you five gold stars, if only it could.

Ingredients (all per serving)

  • 1/2 a bag of fresh baby spinach leaves, either pre-washed or home-washed
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 buffalo mozzarella (ordinary will do but buff is soooo much better)
  • A handful of pinenuts and/or pumpkin seeds
  • Fresh parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 an avocado (optional)
  • Pancetta slices (optional and non ‘v’, obviously)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon pesto
  • a slug of olive oil
  • a splash of lemon juice

Assembly (not ‘method’ – did you see?)

  1. If you’re using the pancetta, heat a frying pan and when nice and hot, place the pancetta strips in it. Fry them till they’re beautifully crispy, remove from heat and blot with kitchen paper. Break into smaller pieces if desired.
  2. For the pinenuts and pumpkin seeds, once again heat a frying pan then very carefully toast the seeds. Watch them like a hawk! Its so easy to burn them, especially the pinenuts as the fats inside them continue cooking even after they come off the heat. As soon as these start to even think about going brown, get them out of the pan and onto a cool plate or bowl. This will stop those pesky fats in their tracks!
  3. Put your spinach leaves in a good size bowl
  4. Slice your red pepper, pull apart your lovely milky mozzarella, shave your parmesan and scoop your avocado, if you’re using it.
  5. Place these on, around and beneath the spinach leaves
  6. Make your dressing: simply combine the pesto, lemon juice and olive oil and mix well. You want it to be pourable, but not too thin.
  7. Add the dressing to the salad (see above)
  8. Sprinkle the nuts and seeds over your salad and garnish with pancetta, if you’re using it.

Top Tip!

Try using a potato peeler to shave the Parmesan cheese. The ones where the blade is horizontal to the handle work best.

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