- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Farmers markets are abuzz across the nation. Fresh produce becomes a wider and fuller kaleidoscope of possibility with each passing week.

I love this time of year, most notably for how easy it is to make stunning little fruit and vegetable dishes with very few ingredients. Raspberries are practically perfect, and spinach is in its depth … the better to combine them in a salad, my dear.

But wait. Raspberries and spinach? Is this some kind of California fusion gone amok? Before I answer your question, let me share with you how my recipe process unfolds, especially in this season. I go to the farmers market with large, empty canvas bags; cash; and no plans.

I walk the length of the Berkeley street. I case the joint to get the lay of the produce. Then I retrace my steps and buy pretty much everything that is beautiful, which is, this time of year, just about everything.

I lay out the gorgeous produce, putting some into bowls, others into baskets. Often, a combination occurs to me simply by seeing two items adjacent on the kitchen counter, catching the light and challenging me to create something new.

With spinach, I find myself envisioning the leaves in small pieces or wilted together by warm oil. That’s because they tend to be sturdy, which is a wonderful trait, but it does make extra chewing necessary.

In the salad that follows, I want the leaves to retain their crunch, so rather than wilt them into a more compliant state, I chop or tear them into small pieces. You could even shred them to create something like a slaw. Keep the raspberries whole; with the red onion thrown in, you will have a visually stunning creation.

Red onion can be harsh, but you can soften the edges by giving it a hot shower in a colander. As the boiling water passes over, it cooks the onions slightly, leaving behind the sweetness.

The dressing is a simple balsamic vinaigrette with just a touch of buttermilk for creaminess. You can make it up to several days ahead. Just be sure to dress the salad at the very last minute so everything stays fresh.

On a warm day, this can be a main dish for lunch or even dinner. Serve it with a crusty sourdough baguette and your favorite mushroom soup for a nice series of flavor contrasts.

Spinach salad with red onion, goat cheese and raspberries

1 medium-small red onion, thinly sliced

10 ounces (approximately) fresh spinach leaves (flat or curly)

½ pint fresh raspberries, or more to taste

About 3 ounces goat cheese

Buttermilk-balsamic dressing (recipe follows)


In advance, boil about 1½ quarts water. Place onion slices in a colander in the sink and douse them with boiling water. Drain thoroughly, dry with paper towels and set aside.

Stem spinach, tear or chop leaves into fairly small pieces and place in a large salad bowl.

Add onion slices and raspberries. Crumble in goat cheese. Pour in a modest amount of the dressing (just enough to coat all the spinach) and toss until everything is touched by the dressing. Grind in some black pepper and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.


2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

4 tablespoons buttermilk

2 tablespoons light honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 to 2 teaspoons finely minced shallot

4 to 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Measure vinegar, buttermilk and honey into a medium-small bowl. Whisk in salt and shallot to taste, then keep whisking while drizzling in enough oil to make dressing the consistency you want. Store in a tightly lidded jar in the refrigerator until using. Makes about 3/4 cup.


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