This is one of my favorite, go-to salads. I keep the ingredients on hand so it's easy to throw together in a matter of minutes.
At first glance, you might not think the flavors would be complementary. Trust me though, this is a dream team of textures and tastes that is sure to make you say, "Um…" This salad combines spinach, toasted almonds, black beans, dried cranberries, and a splash of plain ol' balsamic vinegar into one dish that has both warm, smoky flavors from the beans and toasted nuts, but also a bright, sweet, bite with the cranberries and the balsamic. I often dust mine with fresh, crushed black pepper and, from time to time, sprinkle a few goat cheese crumbles on top which lend a complimentary, creamy finish.
What you Need:
- about 1/4 c. slivered almonds
- about 1/3 c. dried cranberries
- about 1/3 c. black beans (drained and rinsed)
- tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar
- black pepper
- cookie sheet
Preparation: Step by Step
Turn oven to "Broil" at 500 degrees and lay almond slivers out evenly on cookie sheet. Place in oven, leaving the door open just a crack, for about 5 minutes or until almonds reach a brown, toasted color.
While almonds toast, lay down a bed of spinach.
Add black beans.
Sprinkle on toasted almonds.
Add dried cranberries.
Top off with black pepper, balsamic, and goat cheese if you like.
(I got distracted while I was taking pictures for this post and ended up just eating it without taking a final pic. It was quite delicious.)
Some people may prefer less toppings. As my girlfriend once said after she'd finished most of her salad at my house, "I really just prefer a sprinkling."
I eat mine this way because I intentionally try to "beef up" my salads. There's really little else (well, aside from finding that I have like, crusty silverware or something) that bothers me more than going to a restaurant, ordering a salad, and out comes this sad, wimpy looking thing that literally looks as though someone just poured a bag of lettuce on a plate and topped it off with whatever remnants might be found lurking in the back of a college guy's fridge.
Salads don't have to be boring or puny. They are versatile. They are colorful, beautiful. They are incredibly good for you and can be very satisfying. You can pretty much put anything on top of lettuce and call it a "salad" and with so many varied fruit, nut, seed, bean, and veggie options, there's really no excuse why you can't have the makings of this healthy option on hand.
For me, this particular combination never gets old. The taste of toasted almonds is amazing. Uh! and the Smell… Ahhh! The toasting fills your kitchen with their uniquely enveloping aroma and… well, it's just such a delight.
Try it for yourself and see what you think. The possibilities are endless.