Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine Salad - Warm Spinach Salad w/Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette

For Valentine's Day, Mike and I tried a local restaurant downtown called Croce's. All of our food was EXCELLENT, but given my blog name, I was especially drawn to the salad. I had a Warm Spinach Salad with Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette. It was SO GOOD. I decided I needed to figure out how to make it, and in my search for a vanilla bean dressing, I FOUND CROCE'S RECIPE!!!! I am SO excited to make this, and I wanted to share it with you all!!!!

Warm Spinach Salad with Sweet Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette

Warm Spinach Salad with Sweet Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette Spinach salads have been popular for many years, and are featured on the menus of countless restaurants. A specially created rendition of this perennial favorite is served at Croce's. With its fresh vanilla bean dressing and poached figs, this version offers an entirely new direction and flavor profile, which pairs well with a wide variety of fine wines, appetizers, and entrees.

Serves: 6 Vegetarian: Yes
Preparation Time: 00:30
Cuisine: American
Difficulty: Moderate Meal Type: Dinner
Main Ingredient: spinach Dish Type: Salad
Main Cooking Method: Simmer Season/Occasion: Any Occasion

Warm Spinach Salad


  • 1 1/2 lb. baby spinach
  • 6 Mandarin oranges, carefully divided into wedges
  • 9 fl. oz. sweet vanilla bean vinaigrette (see recipe)
  • 24 seedless red grapes
  • 6 oz. walnuts
  • 2 Red Delicious apples, quartered
  • 15 poached figs, halved (see recipe)
  • 12 oz. Stilton blue cheese, crumbled


Slice each apple quarter 4 times lengthwise, taking care to only slice 4/5 the way through each time. Grasp apple by uncut end and gently fan out slices. In a large mixing bowl, toss spinach with warm vanilla bean vinaigrette (see recipe). Prepare 6 plates for serving. Place spinach in center of each plate, top with a fanned apple quarter. Place 5 mandarin-orange wedges evenly at 5 points around the plate's rim. Do the same with 5 poached fig halves (see recipe) so that figs and oranges alternate around plate. Top spinach with grapes and walnuts. Garnish with Stilton cheese crumbles on top and around salad. Serve immediately.

Sweet Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette


  • 1/2 lb. unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 oz. brown sugar
  • 2 oz. honey
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 oz. olive oil


In a saucepan melt butter over medium-low heat and stir in brown sugar and honey. Split vanilla bean in half and core (use the pulp only). Transfer butter mixture and vanilla pulp to a blender. Add vanilla extract and pulse for 2 minutes. Slowly add olive oil, pulsing to incorporate. Return to saucepan and keep over low heat until ready to use.

Poached Figs


  • 1/4 C. white wine
  • 1 Tbsp. sherry wine
  • 1/4 C. water
  • 1/2 lb. dried figs


Bring all liquids to a boil, Reduce heat and add the figs, simmer lightly until softened and cooked through. Discard liquid; reserve figs. Let cool and cut in halves before serving.
(Mike wasn't a huge fig fan, so I'll probably skip that, but they are pretty tasty with the salad!)


BBKiddo said...

That sounds awesome! But I'm with Mike on the no figs.

katkat'skitchen said...

I adore figs and vanilla dressing sounds wonderful to me. I must try a fig and vanilla cheesecake for my cheesecake blog

Parker said...

That looks really really good. love spinach salads. As per your question about my "currently reading" widget. I is actually not a widget, but just added a picture through add page elemet/gadget and put that title in.

Alanna said...

Thanks, Parker! Kat, that sounds like an excellent combo. :) You must all try this salad!!!

Karen said...

That Vinaigrette sounds so good! I'll take the figs :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there, and welcome to Foodie Blogroll! The salad sounds lovely; I am a little surprised that the recipe didn't call for salt, either in the figs or the vinaigrette, but I can imagine that the vanilla paired beautifully with the figs!

Alisa@Foodista said...

This looks like an amazing dish Alana, hope you can share it over at I'm definitely going to try your vanilla dressing! Yum!

feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

This salad sounds delicious...I just bought a new batch of Vanilla beans and I cannot wait to try this Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette.
I have just joined the Foodie Blogroll and found your site...beautiful site...!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for finding and posting this recipe. My husband and I were at Croce's on Monday 2/15/10 and absolutely loved the spinach salad with warm vanilla bean dressing.Never had anything like it and every bite was purely delicious. Since we don't live in San Diego I just had to find the recipe. SO again - THANK YOU!!!!!!!

Alanna said...

Wonderful! I'm glad to help. :)