Recipe: Spinach Salad with Apples & Cheddar

Warmer weather is creeping in, but spring produce has yet to sprout. This leaves us with a pretty constant hankering for lighter fare. Enough with the roasts and braises, give us greens! ...That is, until the next time this crazy weather ricochets back to colder temperatures.

Recently, Silka has become obsessed with hearty spinach and apple salad. It's a classic combination - greens, apples, some cheese and a handful of nuts - and a perfect way to give a little lift to these late winter/early spring meals. We've probably made the salad 5 times in the last month, each time with a few improvements. First, we made the genius decision (if we do say so ourselves) to fry almonds, our nut of choice, in bacon fat. Next, thanks to the helpful people at Race Farms, we concluded that Fuji's were the best apple for the job. And finally we discovered THE cheese to bring it all together: the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar from The Cellars at Jasper Hill. We suggest you run out and get some...NOW!

Spinach Salad with Apples and Cheddar

1 generous handful of raw almonds
1 tsp bacon fat (or a little butter, if you'd like to keep it vegetarian)
1 1/2 lbs spinach - we like regular, but baby would work fine as well
2/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, cut or broken into chunks
1 medium apple, cored and thinly sliced - Fujis are great for this!

+ 1/2 cup olive oil
+ 1 tbsp soy sauce
+ 2 tbsp vinegar - we like apple cider vinegar
+ 2 tsp dijon mustard
+ 2 cloves of garlic, minced

1. Heat the bacon fat (or butter) in a small pan on medium heat. Once melted, add the almonds. Shake the pan to coat the almonds with the fat. Cook for 5 minutes, shaking the pan every minute or so.
2. While the almonds are cooking, assemble the rest of the ingredients in a bowl. Mix the dressing ingredients together and set aside.
3. When the almonds are done, spread them on a cutting board. Let them sit for a couple minutes then chop coarsely and add to the salad.
4. Toss with enough dressing to coat, and serve!

Serves 4 as a side or appetizer salad.

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