Ribbony red onions, shavings of Manchego cheese, and crunchy, sweet walnuts provide such intense flavor that the only dressing needed for this spinach salad is a drizzle of olive oil. With a dose of vinegar from the quick pickling process, red onions contribute to the flavor of a vinaigrette. In fact, all of the toppings are rather playful, lending vibrancy to this salad. The cheese has a distinct nuttiness, the nuts are coated in the sweetness of honey, and the sweet qualities of red onion are transformed with pickled flavor.
Aged manchego cheese
Quick pickled red onions
Quick Pickled Red Onions
1 medium red onion
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup walnut halves or pieces
¼ cup honey
Baby spinach is a hearty yet tender base for the toppings of this salad, and unlike many lettuce varieties, it holds up well to strong flavors. As a dressing, olive oil on its own lends a richness to spinach salads, and often I opt to squeeze citrus or find another way to bring a little acidity into the mix as an alternative to vinaigrette. For this recipe, quick pickled red onions provide acidity, texture, and a colorful, ribbony effect.
Begin by slicing the onion into thin rings. Whisk the brown sugar and salt into the vinegar until they dissolve. Pour the vinegar over the rings, cover, and let sit for at least two hours in the refrigerator. The longer you let them sit, the more pink the rings will become.
While you wait for the onions to pickle, pour the honey into a skillet. Add the walnuts and a sprinkle of salt and cook over medium heat until the nuts are toasted and golden. Stir often so that the honey coats the pieces evenly, and they do not burn. Once they are done, spoon them onto parchment paper and separate.
For each salad, prepare a bed of baby spinach leaves. Remove rings of pickled red onion from the jar and arrange on the leaves. Store the remaining rings in the brine for future use. Top with shaved Manchego cheese, and sprinkle with honeyed walnuts.