aberdeen grape salad with spinach and sweet tahini

spinach salad with tahini date dressing

There are these grapes that show up in the Hong Kong fruit markets around this time of year, and I don’t know what they’re called or where they come from, but I call them Aberdeen grapes because there’s a little fruit stand that sometimes sells them by Aberdeen and Hollywood. I think they might be Australian sable seedless grapes, but I don’t really have a clue. They’re purplish black all the way through, and so incredibly sweet—and while they stain your fingers and cutting board when you slice them, they’re so worth it.

My favorite thing to do with these (other than eat them by the bunch) is to put them in my favorite salads. If this particular variety (whatever it may be called) isn’t available where you are, you can totally use whatever you can find. This salad is delicious with just about any grape, or even blueberries or blackberries. Look for ones that are sweet, seedless, flavorful, and not too tart.

spinach salad with tahini date dressing
spinach salad with tahini date dressing

This particular salad is made with one of my favorite dressings—tahini and date molasses. The two are a middle eastern staple, and many people liken this classic combination to PB&J, since it’s sweet, nutty, and so often eaten with bread. Here, I’ve added some lemon juice and a little water to make it more of a lemon vinaigrette. You can sub honey or another natural sweetener (it’ll still be delicious), but the date molasses gives it an unmatchable depth of flavor.

spinach salad with tahini date dressing
spinach salad with tahini date dressing

aberdeen grape salad with spinach and sweet tahini

yield: 4 to 6 servings
total time: 15 minutes
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spinach salad

  • 1/4 of 1 very small red onion (or 1 small shallot), sliced very thinly

  • (optional) 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter or oil

  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

  • 7 ounces baby spinach

  • 3/4 cup dark purple seedless grapes, sliced in half (can sub red grapes, or blueberries/blackberries)

  • 14.5 ounce can butter beans (can sub any other white bean)

  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

  • 2 ounces feta, crumbled (feel free to use more, leaving it in bigger chunks)

  • 1 batch tahini date dressing (below)

  1. (Optional) Toss the red onion slices in the red wine vinegar, let them pickle for just 10 minutes, and then strain them very well. Otherwise, just use them sliced, as is.

  2. Heat the butter or oil in a medium skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add the almonds and stir constantly for about 5 minutes, just until they take on a little color. Using a slotted spoon, remove the almonds to a paper-towel-lined plate, leaving the oil behind in the pan.

  3. Once the almonds have cooled down for a minute or two, place the spinach in a big bowl, and top with the grapes, beans, sesame seeds, feta, dressing, and toasted almonds. Toss everything together to combine, and serve right away.

tahini date dressing

  • 1/4 cup tahini

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 2 tablespoons date syrup *

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Whisk together the tahini and lemon juice until it forms a paste with a mayo-like consistency.

  2. Whisk in the water, date molasses, and salt. If it doesn’t thin out to your liking, you can add a little extra water and/or lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time.

* You can find date syrup/date molasses (same thing) at most Middle Eastern markets, health food stores, and online, but if you can't find any near you, feel free to substitute honey (and feel free to include a few drops of blackstrap molasses if you want to give it more color and depth of flavor, or choose a buckwheat honey). If using honey, hold back a little, because it’s usually more sugary than date molasses.

spinach salad with tahini date dressing

a perfect bowl of tabbouleh

a perfect bowl of tabbouleh

The name of this recipe is a little unfair, because there’s nothing more perfect than the tabbouleh my grandmother, mom, and great aunt make without recipes, scales, or cups. But a great recipe is different from the thing itself, and a recipe only exists to get you to delicious food. So I finally got around to recording our family recipe in grams, instead of bunches, cups, and handfuls. But at the end of the day, you don’t really need to use these precise measurements, because tabbouleh is very straightforward if you know what you’re doing.

The key to good tabbouleh is to remember that the parsley, mint, and onion are not mere garnishes, but a substantial part of the salad, so be sure to pay attention to your ratios, and adjust them to your liking. The most important ratio to pay attention to is bulgur:parsley. There’s some controversy among recipe writers about how much bulgur to add to tabbouleh, and I fall somewhere in the middle, or maybe a little more toward the bulgur-heavy side of the spectrum. One thing we can all agree on is that there shouldn’t be too much bulgur (it’s just that the definition of “too much” varies from person to person, as well as season to season).

Perhaps the reason I like to include a little more bulgur than some is that my family taught me to treat the bulgur with a little special care. So instead of boiling or steeping it in water, we like to soak it in lemon and tomato juice. This makes every bite incredibly flavorful (and it conveniently saves an extra step). But this method only works if you use fine bulgur, so don’t miss the notes at the bottom of the recipe if you want to substitute a coarser bulgur.

tabbouleh

a perfect bowl of tabbouleh

serves 6
total time: 30 minutes
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  • 150g (3/4 cup) fine burghul/bulgur #1 *

  • 425g (2 cups) minced tomatoes, with their juices (from about 3 medium tomatoes)

  • 85g (between 1/3 - 1/2 cup) lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)

  • Salt to taste

  • 100g (2 cups) minced flat-leaf parsley leaves (from about 2 big bunches)**

  • 45g (3/4 cup) minced green onions (from less than 1 bunch)

  • 35g (1 cup) minced mint leaves (from about 1 big bunch, or 2 smaller ones)

  • 45g (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. If you're using fine burghul/bulgur #1, you should not cook your burghul in hot water; instead, soak the burghul in a mixing bowl with the minced tomatoes, their juices, 75 grams of the lemon juice, and a pinch of salt (to taste). Let the mixture soak while you prep the rest of the ingredients (about 20 minutes). The bulgur will continue to hydrate once you’ve mixed the salad together.

  2. Add the parsley, green onions, mint, and remaining lemon juice to the bulgur and tomato mixture, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with pepper. Mix well, and let it sit for about 10 minutes before salting and serving. You can enjoy it for about 48 hours, but if you’re making it for guests, you should serve it within about 30 minutes of mixing. Season with salt (to taste) immediately before serving.

* You can find burghul #1/fine bulgur at most Middle Eastern markets, and some international sections of grocery stores. If you can't find a source near you, you can substitute couscous, cracked wheat, or coarse bulgur. These will need to be cooked in boiling water until al dente, rinsed, strained well, and then soaked with the tomatoes and lemon juice for about ten minutes. Burghul #1 is pre-cooked and very fine, so it only needs to be soaked, rather than cooked.
** Make sure your herbs are dried very well with a towel or spin-dryer before mincing. Use the sharpest knife you have, so that you can cut through the herbs cleanly, instead of crushing them. For precision, all of the ingredients in this recipe are measured after mincing, so the 100g parsley is just the leaves themselves, not the weight of the entire bunch (make sure you buy enough).

tabbouleh