Spinach Salad with Warm Dressing and Tofu Croutons

MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

TIME: About 45 minutes, including making the croutons

There is no reason to shun this favorite American salad just because you want to skip the bacon. Tofu croutons have a crisp appeal all their own, while the slightly sweet, soy-based dressing is rich and satisfying. There is also no reason to stop at spinach and tofu; see the list below for add-on ideas.

1 pound fresh spinach leaves

1/4 cup peanut oil or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

1 tablespoon peeled, minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 cup sliced scallion

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons dark sesame oil

Hot red pepper flakes to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound (about 11/2 cups) Tofu Croutons

Salt, if needed

01 Put the spinach in a bowl large enough to comfortably toss the salad quickly.

02 Put the peanut oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until just soft, about a minute. Add the scallion and cook for another minute. Stir in the sugar, vinegar, and 2 tablespoons water. When the mixture begins to bubble, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until it becomes a little syrupy, 2 to 3 minutes.

03 Stir in the soy sauce and sesame oil. Season with the red pepper flakes and black pepper. (The dressing may be made to this point up to an hour or so in advance. Just remove it from the heat until ready to serve, then gently rewarm it.) While the dressing is still warm, pour it over the spinach and toss immediately until well coated. Add the croutons and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a little salt if necessary. Serve.

5 Great Ways to Vary Wilted Spinach Salad

  1. Garnish with a couple tablespoons of sesame seeds, toasted, or sunflower seeds.
  2. Add 1/2 cup finely chopped tomato to the dressing while heating it.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons fermented black beans to the dressing while heating it.
  4. Toss the finished salad with 1/2 cup or more edamame.
  5. Add 2 ounces bean , soaked and cut thread noodles, or 2 cups cooked rice vermicelli.