One of my favorite ways to eat baby spinach is this apple gorgonzola spinach salad. It's a combination of baby spinach, butter toffee pecans, sliced granny smith apples, crumbled gorgonzola cheese, and dried cranberries mixed with a homemade dried herb vinaigrette. I really like making this salad alongside ricotta and sausage-baked ziti.
What I Love About This Recipe
This recipe is a blend of crunchy, sweet, salty, and fresh all mixed together in a delicious salad form. It kind of reminds me of upscale dining but from my kitchen table. Anytime I have guests over and want that "wow" factor, I serve this salad.
- Baby spinach: I prefer tender baby spinach leaves that are pre-washed from the grocery store. It cuts down time to clean and dry the spinach.
- Gorgonzola cheese: This is my favorite choice for this salad with blue cheese a close second choice. Gorgonzola can be purchased as crumbles or a block of cheese. Just make sure the cheese is crumbled prior to adding to the salad.
- Granny smith apple: I like using a granny smith apple because of its tart flavor.
- Dried cranberries: I prefer using dried cranberries that don't contain any added sugar.
- Butter toffee pecans: This is a star ingredient for this recipe. Either purchase pre-made butter toffee pecans or make them yourself. This candied pecan recipe is similar to how store-bought toffee pecans taste.
- Dijon mustard: I like the little bit of heat from dijon mustard, however, any type of mustard will work.
- Dried Italian herbs: I like the variety of dried herbs, however, dried or fresh oregano are an excellent substitute.
See the recipe card at the bottom of the post for quantities.
How To Make Apple Gorgonzola Spinach Salad
Wash and slice the granny smith apple. In a large bowl, measure out the baby spinach leaves, dried cranberries, gorgonzola cheese, and butter toffee pecans.
In a separate small bowl, add the red wine vinegar, dried Italian herbs, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Mix well until the mustard is fully dissolved into the red wine vinegar. Add the olive oil at the end.
Hint: If you have a salad dressing shaker bottle or jar with a lid, add all of the salad ingredients together and shake well until blended.
Hint: Keep the salad dressing and dry salad separated until ready to serve.
Mix all of the ingredients together. Once the baby spinach leaves are coated in the vinegar olive oil dressing, they will reduce in size. Add extra spinach if desired.
Once the salad dressing is mixed in, eat the spinach salad right away.
Tips and Tricks
The biggest tip for a successful salad is not to mix the dressing until you are ready to eat it. The baby spinach leaves wilt reducing in volume and the crunchy parts of the salad become soggy. Also, the amount of baby spinach seems like a lot until the dressing is mixed in.
Variations and Substitutions
- Substitute blue cheese for gorgonzola cheese. Crumble the cheese into equal-sized chunks.
- Use spring mix instead of baby spinach leaves. I recommend using pre-washed store-bought spring mix.
- Substitute basalmic vinegar for red wine vinegar. Measure equal parts basalmic vinegar for red wine vinegar.
- Add fresh oregano instead of using dried Italian herbs. I recommend using twice the amount of fresh herbs if substituting for dried herbs.
Slice the granny smith apple with a chef's knife and cutting board. Measure out the ingredients using measuring cups. Place the salad ingredients into a large salad bowl. Shake the herb vinaigrette in a salad dressing shaker. Mix the salad with two large salad spoons.
Store the apple gorgonzola spinach salad separate from the olive oil vinegar salad dressing until it's ready to be eaten. Store this salad in the fridge up to 1 day in advance (keeping the dressing separate). The granny smith apples might discolor slightly if made ahead of time.
Store the salad dressing in the fridge for up to 4 days. The olive oil will solidify in the fridge, so allow the dressing to reach room temperature prior to mixing into the salad.
Yes, baby and full-grown spinach leaves can be consumed raw.
Depending on how spinach is prepared, it can go with a lot of things. Spinach can be served as a salad ingredient, in a smoothie, or made into spinach stew.
If using baby spinach leaves, there's no need to cut up the spinach leaves.