I recently had lunch with my good friend Joyce Prim at our favorite Italian restaurant here in Nogales. Ragazzi’s consistently has good Italian food, but neither Joyce or I had ever had their salad. Trying to start off the New Year by losing a couple pounds, we both opted for this salad. It was really delicious, but a little light on the bacon and pine nuts and the dressing was not homemade, so I decided to recreate it at home.
What made this salad so special was the Raspberry Vinaigrette. This dressing is so easy to make and miles ahead, in terms of both taste and consistency, to what you buy in a bottle. No Xanthan gum, no corn syrup solids, no maltodextrin, no potassium sorbate, no red #40…well you get the idea.
To make Raspberry Vinaigrette at home just add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. I used frozen raspberries. Did you know that Birdseye first introduced frozen foods to the US in 1929? They did not really take off until the late 40’s/early 50’s and by the 1960’s packaged frozen foods and dinners (think TV dinners!) were all the rage. A revolutionary change in how Americans eat had begun.
Sometimes frozen is better than fresh if you can’t get fruit or veg in season.
Ingredients for the Vinaigrette: 1 1/2 cups raspberries, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup Rice Wine Vinegar (I think Red Wine Vinegar would work well, too), about 2 Tbsp. diced onion (or shallot, or leeks), 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, Pinch of sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper to taste. What is a pinch? Using your thumb and index finger pinch out a bit of sugar. That’s a pinch.
Add all ingredients to a little blender or mini-food processor and blend until very smooth. I love the deep red color.
The salad also has julienned pears, toasted pine nuts, bacon and shrimp. I used red Anjou pears. No need to peel them, just square off the ends, remove the core, and cut into equal sized match stick pieces. Julienne is the French term for this type of cut. They don’t have to be perfectly same-sized; this is a salad after all!
I roasted a bunch of bacon for breakfast that day so just re-crisped 2 slices in a cast iron skillet. In fact I used that cast iron pan for each item that needed heating. But start by toasting the pine nuts over medium heat in the dry cast iron.
The pine nuts ‘catch’ quickly so you will need to watch them to make sure they don’t burn. Remove and set aside until you are ready to assemble the salad.
I generally cook my bacon in the oven; much less mess. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil. Place bacon in strips on the pan. Bake until crispy.
Next, crisp up 2 slices of bacon in the same cast iron you browned the pine nuts in. I used 1 strip of bacon per serving. You can use more, but this seemed like the right proportion.
Remove the bacon, but not the fat as you are going to gently cook the onions in the bacon fat until just translucent; about 3 – 4 minutes. And then also using the same pan, cook the shrimp.
Even though I use organic spinach, I always wash and remove those little weeds that grow alongside spinach. They are bitter and probably not harmful, but not delicious. I also stem the spinach, which is not 100% necessary, but makes the salad easier to eat and look more attractive.
Once you have cooked the onions, just to make them a little sweeter, grill the shrimp in the same pan that still has bacon fat until just pink; about 3 minutes per side. Now you are ready to assemble the salad.
Grab a couple handfuls of spinach per serving; stem and arrange on a plate. Add the julienned pears, toasted pine nuts, bacon, and top with the shrimp. Dress the salad with the Raspberry Vinaigrette, garnish with 3 raspberries and serve.
This salad is refreshing, satisfying because of the protein in the shrimp and nuts, and hearty enough for dinner. If I were not watching my calories this month, I would serve the salad with a lightly toasted piece of sourdough bread. Enjoy!
Spinach and Shrimp Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
Satisfying enough for an entre with a beautiful blend of flavors and textures.
For the Raspberry Vinaigrette
- 1 1/2 cups Raspberries, fresh or frozen
- 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup Rice Wine Vinegar Or vinegar of your choice.
- 2 Tbsp. Onion, diced Or shallot, or leek.
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 Pinch Sugar
- 1/4 tsp. Salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the Spinach and Shrimp Salad
- 2 Handfuls Spinach per serving; about 2 cups
- 1 Pear Julienned; 1/2 pear per serving
- 4 Tbsp. Pine nuts, toasted; 2 Tbsp. per serving
- 2 Strips Bacon, very crispy; 1 piece per serving
- 10 Shrimp, lightly sauted; 5 per serving
TO MAKE THE RASPBERRY VINAIGRETTE: Saute the onions with 1 Tbsp. olive oil from what you will add to the vinaigrette, (or use the bacon fat depending on what order you put this salad together) for 3 to 4 minutes in a heavy bottomed skillet, such as cast iron, until just translucent. Do not brown.
Add all ingredients to a mini-food processor and blend until very smooth.
Remove and set aside until ready to dress the salad. This dressing keeps well in the fridge for a week.
TO MAKE THE SPINACH AND SHRIMP SALAD
Wash and stem the spinach. Remove any weeds from the spinach.
Toast the pine nuts in a dry cast iron skillet. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Crisp up the bacon in the same pan. Remove the bacon, but do not remove the fat. Cut the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces.
Salt and pepper the shrimp. In the same pan, cook the shrimp until just pink, over medium high heat; about 3 minutes per side.
ASSEMBLE THE SALAD: Add 2 cups fresh spinach leaves to each plate. Add 1/2 Julienned pear to each salad. Next, add the bacon and browned pine nuts. Top with the shrimp and dress the salad with the Raspberry Vinaigrette. Garnish with 3 raspberries.