Although the origin of spinach salad is unclear, Germans who settled in Pennsylvania are credited with bringing a similar concoction to the United States. Food expert and humorist Alton Brown claims the original mixture comprised dandelions, bacon drippings, vinegar and hard-cooked eggs. Because dandelions were not necessarily appreciated in this country, they were later replaced with spinach.
Currently, popular spinach salad ingredients include spinach, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, mushrooms, red onion, walnuts, cranberries and feta cheese with either a warm bacon or vinaigrette dressing.
Noteworthy variations appear all over gourmet blogs and foodie pages:
- figs, currants, chopped apple or strawberries instead of cranberries
- pecans instead of walnuts
- blue or cheddar cheese instead of feta
- pineapple and lemon dressing instead of warm bacon dressing or vinaigrette
- marinated mushrooms instead of sautéed mushrooms
Especially unexpected innovations have enthusiasts topping their salads with fried eggs, grilled steak strips and even vermouth vinaigrette!
As salad has long been a pairing challenge, IntoWine turned to our panel of experts to share their recommendations for the best wines to unite with spinach salad. The team includes a master chef, certified sommelier, winery designer and wine writer.
Adding curry to the dressing on a spinach salad is something I like to do to create the variety of textures and exotic flavors that can be found in India or Morocco. I usually add ingredients like almonds, apples and dried apricots to the salad, then coat it all with a dressing consisting of garlic, curry powder, ginger, sugar, salt, pepper, vinegar and dry white wine. The dry white wine that I use in the dressing is the same wine that I drink with the salad. It is a good idea to drink the same wine that is in the solid – in this case, the coated salad, as it creates an instant bridge and match from solid and fluid. I use a wine from the Alsace, France region, whose winemakers are famous for their winemaking technique of creating wines with low residual sugar, resulting in dry, and considerably complex wines. A 2006 Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Les Princes Abbés from Alsace, with its light-to-medium body, does not overpower the salad and actually adds concentrated peach, citrus and mineral flavors. Salads can be exciting and delicious, especially when a wine ingredient is in your dressing. – Chef Sir Roy J. Salazar, Certified Master Chef, Sommelier and Taster; Chef Instructor, San Francisco, CA.
Spinach salad is one of those ultimate summer side dishes. The spinach itself should be young, fresh and clean. You can throw in everything from fruits to nuts, bacon and eggs, cold creamy dressings to warmed vinaigrettes. Everything else you add can plug in sweet and tart (dried cranberries), salty meatiness (bacon), and even a splash of umami using truffle oil. What’s not to love? In my humble opinion, since there are so many ways to make spinach salad, it’s best to choose a wine that is just as versatile. The 2009 Weingut Allram Gaisberg Grüner Veltliner Kamptal Reserve fits the bill! Speaking of bill . . . prices can range from a $10 Pollerhof to a $70+ Prager. The profile comprises fresh, bright, clean botanical nuances, nice melon and citrus and is almost effervescent with a lively white pepper on the finish. If you ever have the opportunity to sample Grüner Veltliners from different producers, don’t pass it up! - Justin Falco, Certified Sommelier, Donkey & Goat Winery, Berkeley, CA. www.Adonkeyandgoat.com
A simple spinach salad with crumbled feta cheese and dried cranberries with no dressing is the perfect salad to me. I know many people prefer adding dressing, candied walnuts or something else, but going back to my design roots, I believe “less is more.” I generally prefer my pairings to contrast, but a salad that already has deeply contrasting elements: creamy feta and sweet cranberries, presents a pairing challenge. A friend recommended I try the 2010 Beringer White Zinfandel. I admit I was a bit apprehensive about the wine because I am not a huge sweet wine fan. Nonetheless, I found myself at Beringer the next weekend trying different wines. When I came to the white zinfandel, I was ready for a bitter taste in my mouth but was completely surprised by the light sweetness that lingered with soft underlying raspberry tones. The wine had a crisp finish that accented the basic salad features while the fruit flavors brought out the cranberries. I left Beringer with a few bottles of this wine alone. The wine is balanced and simple and is priced around $8 per bottle. A hidden Beringer favorite at a great value. – Heather Young, Winery Designer, L & H Design, Napa, CA.
I love that pairing dishes can be like solving a puzzle. Connecting wine to the strongest flavor is a safe bet, but uncovering two standout elements of the food that work with the same wine makes me feel like Nancy Drew. Topped with a lemon-garlic, olive oil dressing, my spinach salad is minimalist, incorporating spinach, bacon, toasted walnuts and blue cheese. Conspicuous elements are the lemon and blue cheese. What varietal has the sharpness to meet the acid in the lemon, but the fruit-forward quality to complement the saltiness of the blue cheese? Riesling. Trimbach’s 2005 Cuvée Frédéric Emile is the missing puzzle piece with its bright acid and compelling lemon citrus. Aged in the bottle five years before release, the wine is tightly structured with intriguing mineral notes. Its harvest late in the season produces robust fruit, yet the wine remains dry with a long, satisfying finish. – Paula Barker, Wine Writer, IntoWine.com, Santa Ana, CA; www.intowine.com/user/paula-barker.