I love a sweet and savory salad. This Kiwi Berry Spinach Salad with Honey Poppy Seed Dressing hits those sweet and savory notes plus so much more.
Just look at all the pretty colors! It’s a visual feast wrapped up in a simple summery salad.
When it’s summer, salads are the perfect “go to” whether they’re a side salad or a main dish. I try to make main dish salads as often as possible because they’re generally a quick and easy, light and healthy choice.
And, you can always add extra protein to bulk them up if you want are heartier choice. This salad already boasts two kinds of protein, but it would be fab with some grilled chicken as well.
First up, let’s make some candied pecans. They’re going to give us part of the sweet and salty element. They’re also going to give us some nice crunch.
Candied pecans are super easy to make. I use them often. I love them on top of my Orange Vanilla Glazed Sweet Potatoes. Of course, they’re also great on top of oatmeal or ice cream or yogurt. They’re also yummy on their own as a snack.
Nuts, butter and sugar all go into a small skillet. As you stir it, the butter and sugar will melt into a caramel syrup. Just don’t leave the stove while you’re making them. It happens pretty quickly. You won’t want to leave. It smells heavenly.
Then, just pour the hot, syrupy pecans onto a small greased piece of foil or right onto some parchment paper. Once they cool, you can break them up into smaller pieces.
Next, the dressing. Yes, you could buy a bottled dressing, but making your own is really quite easy. I just added all the ingredients to a jar and shook it. Boom! Salad dressing.
Now, as I am wont to do, I worked on a dressing that was less sweet than most poppy seed dressings. And I thought I’d use honey instead of sugar, perfect for those avoiding refined sugar.
I also went with a slightly higher ratio of vinegar to oil than some vinaigrettes. Typically, you might see a 1 to 3 ratio, vinegar to oil. I wanted a bit more vinegar to balance the honey. I wanted a little more bite. Spinach is a mild green; I think it benefits from a little more vinegar.
If you taste the dressing on it’s own, the vinegar might catch you a little bit in the back of your throat. But if you dip a spinach leave in it and try it, it really works well. It works even better once it dresses all the components of this salad.
The beauty of making your own salad dressing is being able to control what goes into it and how much. If you want a sweeter dressing, add more honey. Less bite…add more oil or reduce the vinegar. You know the drill.
For this salad, I’m using baby spinach. My spinach leaves seemed more like toddler leaves as they were not exactly small and easy to manage. I think salads should be able to be eaten without a lot of extra involvement from a knife once it makes it to the plate.
I also don’t like trying to fit large leaves of greenery onto a fork. For that reason, I tore my spinach into smaller pieces. It just makes it easier. And it’s summer and I’m all about pressing the easy button.
Now here’s one of my secrets for this salad. Toss the spinach leaves with some dressing BEFORE you add the toppings. Why? Because you don’t want to bruise your berries with lots of tossing, specifically the raspberries. You’ll also be able to maintain the beauty of this salad even while serving. (That means the goat cheese stays in nice crumbles.)
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to the components of this salad. I used three kinds of berries: strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. I cut the strawberries into easy bite size slices. (Remember? Easy bites, just like the spinach.)
The raspberries and blueberries already come in perfectly sized pieces, so they can just go in as is.
Then, I decided to add some kiwi slices. They’re a perfect taste match for the berries and they add more visual and textural interest.
You’re going to place all of your fruit over the top of your already dressed spinach leaves in whatever fashion you prefer. I just evenly distributed the fruit, but if it strikes your fancy, arrange it into a design.
Now, drizzle the dressing lightly over the berries. We’re not tossing the salad from this point on, just dressing the layers.
Next up, the cheese. I chose a creamy, tangy goat cheese. This is another reason that I used a higher vinegar ratio in my dressing. It helps cut through the creaminess of the cheese. Crumble this on top of the berries.
By this point, your pecans should be cool and ready to use. Sprinkle them over the top of the salad.
Now here’s the cool part. You don’t have to toss the salad. If you do, you’ll end up with bruised berries and goat cheese all over your pretty green leaves. It will taste fantastic, but it just won’t be as pretty.
Use tongs to serve the salad. If you look at my individual plate, I served that right from the bowl. I didn’t cheat and arrange that plate separately. It looks as pretty on my plate as it did in the bowl and it’s dressed perfectly. I hate an over dressed salad with wilted leaves and deep puddles of dressing in the bottom of the bowl.
Of course, serve the extra dressing at the table for those who would like more. Just give it a good shake to insure that’s it’s fully emulsified (the oil and vinegar are fully mixed) and put it in a pretty little pitcher.
What do you end up with? Besides an oh so pretty summer salad? Well, as promised, you get sweet and savory. But you also get creamy and tangy from the goat cheese. There’s juicy sweetness from the berries and kiwi. We can’t forget the crunchy sweet and salty from the pecans. The dressing complements them all beautifully.
This Kiwi Berry Spinach Salad with Honey Poppy Seed Dressing is a perfect choice for an absolutely delicious summer salad. Use it as a side or add some grilled chicken and make it the main event.
And use my secret for dressing the salad….
because you should have a salad that tastes as good as it looks!
Kiwi Berry Spinach Salad with Honey Poppy Seed Dressing
For the candied pecans:
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salted butter
For the poppy seed dressing:
- 5 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the salad:
- 8 cups baby spinach
- 3 kiwis peeled and sliced
- 2 cups assorted fresh berries I used strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
- 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
- Make the candied pecans. Line a small baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Add pecans, sugar and butter to a small skillet. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until sugar melts, and the pecans looks like they're coated in a syrupy caramel. Pour pecans out onto the prepared foil and spread into a single layer. Allow to cool. When the pecans are cool, and the caramel has hardened, break into pieces.
- Make the dressing. Place all dressing ingredients into a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until fully combined. Set aside.
- Place baby spinach in a large serving bowl. If the spinach leaves are large, gently tear them into smaller, more manageable pieces.
- Toss the spinach with enough dressing to lightly coat it.
- Scatter berries over the top. Lightly drizzle a little more dressing over the berries.
- Top with crumbled goat cheese and candied pecans.
*Add some grilled chicken for a heartier main dish salad.
*If you don't like goat cheese, substitute feta cheese.
*You can make the candied pecans in advance and just store them at room temperature in an air tight container. I often double the amount of candied pecans.
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