Did I tell you that we’re in the midst of my husband’s retirement from the Army? Well, I’m not supposed to call it “retirement”, it’s referred to as his “transition”. “Retirement” has a bad connotation for prospective employers. “Transition” sounds like you still have some life left in you. I learned that and many more things I don’t really care about. So, he’s “transitioning” and I’m losing my mind. Between the stress of where he will find the “perfect” job, and how fast we’ll need to jump on it, I’m freaking out. We sat down the other day to gameplan over our options. This Spinach and Citrus Salad with Lime Poppy Seed Dressing is what we munched on whilst mulling over our new coming of age.
Lime Poppy Seed dressing isn’t as well-known as its Lemony cousin, but the truth is that I like changing things up. The spinach in this salad is gently wilted by the acid found in the juice of the grapefruit and blood orange, as well the acid in the vinaigrette. Creamy feta contrasts with the assertive red onion, and a soft-boiled egg is there…well…just because.
What You Need
Most citrus is in season until late May, so that’s the inspiration for this salad. I’m using a sweet-ish ruby red grapefruit and blood oranges. Some other suggestions are white flesh grapefruits, cara cara oranges, and/or kumquats. Choose two or three; any more or less will cause the flavors to be unbalanced. Spinach- regular or baby- is recommended. Part of the reason I prefer spinach is because the leaves are tender enough to wilt gently from the acidity of the dressing; but they’re not so tough as to be unpleasant. You’ll also use poppy seeds (of course), red onion, limes, fresh mint, salt, cayenne and black peppers, dijon mustard, honey, and olive oil.
If you want to stick to the standard lemon poppy seed dressing (boorrrrring), just substitute the lemon juice.
Prep the Vinaigrette
The lime poppy seed dressing for this spinach salad comes together very quickly. Use a citrus juicer to juice four large limes. You’ll need about a half-cup of fresh lime juice.
In a jar that has a screw-top lid (like a mason jar) measure out the seasonings: the salt, and both peppers.
Pour in a cup of extra virgin olive oil, the lime juice, honey and the dijon mustard. The dijon and the honey both act as emulsifiers to help the dressing stay combined for a longer period of time (which means less shaking needed to recombine). They also flavor the dressing, which is pretty important.
Now, just throw in your poppy seeds. I mean, don’t throw them in there. Just add them nicely. Screw the lid on really tight and shake to get to emulsify the dressing.
Your dressing is now ready to go. You can use it right away, or store it in the fridge for one week. Just shake vigorously to remix when you’re going to serve it.
Prep the Citrus
I prefer to use smaller fruits because it means there’s less chance of having to wrestle seeds from the slices. Here, once again, I’m using a sweet-ish ruby red grapefruit. If you really like the tartness of yellow (or white) fleshed grapefruits, feel free to use that instead. Plunk the grapefruit onto your cutting board, and use your chef’s knife to cut away a quarter of an inch from the top and bottom of the fruit. This provides a firm base, which stops the grapefruit from rolling around on you, and gets rid of the inedible white pith.
Note: If you opt to serve a soft-boiled (or hard-boiled) egg, begin heating the water now. By the time you’re finished with the citrus, it should be boiling.
Starting at the top, slice away the rind of the grapefruit, down to the bottom. Just follow the contour of the fruit to peel it properly. Discard the peel.
Now it’s just a matter of slicing the grapefruit into rounds. We could do segments, but I think rounds look better- you can also cut them into half moons. Scan the slices and, if there are any seeds that need to be picked out, do so and discard them.
Do the same for the blood oranges (or whichever tart-ish orange you choose to use). If you add kumquats to the mix, don’t worry about peeling them. In fact, you’ll need to leave the peel because it’s the sweetest part of the kumquat.
Finishing the Salad
The rest of the salad is as easy to put together as everything else leading up to this point was. Hopefully, the water for your egg(s) is boiling, so go ahead and drop the eggs into the water now. For soft-boiled, boil your egg for six minutes; for hard-boiled: fourteen. Once they’re finished boiling, drain the hot water and fill the pan with ice cold water to stop the egg from cooking. Peel and set them aside until you’re ready to serve the salad.
Prep the red onion by cutting the stem end- not the hairy root end- off. Then cut the onion in half through the root and peel off the skin. You only need to use half an onion for this recipe, so go ahead and bag (and refrigerate) the other half.
Thinly slice the onion cutting in same direction as the onion’s natural lines. Cut the slices thinly because red onions are pretty pungent. Set the onions to the side.
This recipe assumes that you are using triple-washed (bagged) spinach leaves for this salad. If you are using unwashed spinach, rinse the leaves well and spin them dry in a salad spinner.
Pick the leaves off of two stems of mint, then give them a rough chop, or tear them with your fingers. There is something about mint with citrus which, when combined, makes dishes like this so refreshing.
Dress and Serve the Salad
Shake the lime poppy seed dressing again, then pour a few tablespoons of it into the bottom of a large salad bowl. I pour dressings and sauces into the bottoms of bowls or pots because I think it ensures complete coverage of the dishes I want to sauce (or dress).
Add the spinach to the bowl and cover with an additional tablespoon, or two, of dressing. Use a pair of salad tongs to toss the spinach thoroughly.
After you’ve tossed the spinach, spoon about two cups onto each plate. Top with the slices from half a grapefruit and one blood orange, a handful of red onion slices, a quarter cup of crumbled feta cheese, and a sprinkle of the torn mint leaves. Spoon more of the lime poppy seed dressing over the fruits and cheese. Now top everything with your soft-boiled egg, which you can cut in half.
You need to serve your salad pretty soon after dressing it to keep it from getting soggy. If you are taking this to work (or school) keep the citrus slices separate from the spinach- topping with the cheese and onion are good- just avoid adding the acid too early. Right before you sit down to eat your lunch, shake the lime poppy seed dressing with the spinach, then serve. Top with the citrus and the egg.
I suppose we need grow up sooner or later. This looming retirement has taught me that much, at least. This salad looks and tastes really adulty, which means we’re ready to be grown ups…I think. Go ahead and pin this recipe for the days when you’re feeling more mature than normal.
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Spinach Citrus Salad with Lime Poppy Seed Vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper plus more to taste
- pinch cayenne pepper optional
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 2-4 large eggs, boiled according to your preference (1-2 eggs per serving)
- 6 ounce bag spinach leaves
- 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 ruby red grapefruit, peeled and sliced see note for more options
- 2 blood oranges, peeled and sliced see note for more options
- 2 sprigs fresh mint, leaves removed and roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Prepare the Lime Poppy Seed Dressing
- In a jar that has a screw-top lid (like a mason jar) combine the poppy seeds, salt and both peppers.
- Add the olive oil, lime juice, honey and the dijon mustard to the jar and screw the top on tightly. Give the jar a vigorous shake to emulsify the dressing.
- Set the dressing aside while you make the salad, or store it in the refrigerator for one week.
Boil the Eggs
- In a saucepan, begin heating the water for boiling your eggs over medium-high heat.
- Once the water for your eggs comes to a boil, place them into the water gently and boil for: 6 minutes (soft-boiled), 10 minutes (medium), or 14 minutes (hard).
- Once they eggs have finished boiling, drain the hot water and fill the pan with ice water to stop the eggs from cooking further. Peel and set them aside until you're ready to serve the salad.
Assemble the Salad
- Give the dressing another vigorous shake and pour a few tablespoons of it into the bottom of a large salad bowl. Add the spinach to the bowl and cover with an additional tablespoon, or two, of dressing. Use a pair of salad tongs to coat the spinach completely in the dressing.
- Spoon about 2 cups of spinach leaves onto your plate. Top each serving with slices from 1/2 of the grapefruit, as well as slices from one blood orange. Finish topping each salad with a handful of red onion slices, a 1/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese, and a generous pinch of the torn mint leaves.
- Spoon more of the lime poppy seed dressing over the fruits and cheese, if desired, and top the salad with your soft-boiled egg- cut in half.
- Serve immediately after assembling and enjoy!
- kumquats (unpeeled)
- cara cara orange
- white (or yellow) grapefruit
- Buddha's hand (thinly sliced, unpeeled)
- sweet lime
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