Friday recipe: spinach and fresh fruit salad

I like May for all sorts of reasons, including for its various “holiday” statuses. Did you know, for example, that May is National Foot Health Month, Mental Health Month, Correct Posture Month and Share a Story Month? For all you foodies out there, May is National Strawberry Month, Chocolate Custard Month, Egg Month, Artisan Gelato Month, Asparagus Month and – my personal favorite – National Salsa Month. May is a veritable smorgasbord of benefits!

It's May - time for salads!

Speaking of fun feasting, our friends at Noodles & Company also tell me that May is National Salad Month, and they have some new concoctions to mark the occasion, including the spinach and fresh fruit salad below. It’s perfect for the greens popping up in my spouse’s garden and at local farmers’ markets as well as the strawberries coming in from California; when they’re no longer in reason, you can swap out other fresh fruit, such as chopped apple or mandarin orange slices.

I’ll be sharing more Noodles & Company salad recipes in the coming weeks, and not just because the friendly folks at the Valley West Mall location in nearby West Des Moines have invited me for a tasting. And not because it offers healthier options (with many entrees under 500 calories) in a family-friendly environment, although I love that, too. The company has hundreds of locations nationwide, but it bucks the faceless fast-food franchise feel with its commitment to the community. For example, on Wednesday, May 16, our local Noodles will donate 25 percent of all sales from 4 to 9 p.m. to the Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity. The restaurant has hosted similar benefits for The Pet Project Midwest and Dowling High School. It’s the official restaurant sponsor for this year’s RAGBRAI, the Des Moines Register’s Great Bicycle Race Across Iowa.

Great food, great causes and a better community – what’s not to love about that?

Spinach and fruit salad (recipe for the home chef)
Serves 4 regular salads or 6-8 small sides

  • 12-oz. bag of spinach
  • ¼  cup red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1¼  cups croutons
  • ¾ cup of your favorite balsamic vinaigrette
  • 4 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • ½ cup pecans, chopped
  • ½ cup blue cheese
  • 1½ cups strawberries, cut into bite-sized pieces, or other fresh fruit
  • Balsamic glaze – see recipe below

Prepare the glaze by mixing ½ cup balsamic vinegar and 3 tablespoons honey in a sauce pan. If you would like it sweeter, simply add more honey. Bring glaze to a boil, then simmer whisking regularly until it thickens slightly and becomes syrupy, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely before placing over top of salad.

To assemble the salad, mix the spinach, croutons, onions and balsamic vinaigrette in a large bowl. Place the ingredients on top of the salad in the following order: bacon, pecans, blue cheese and strawberries/other fruit. Drizzle the top of the salad with the balsamic glaze, to taste.

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