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warm potato and spinach salad

My 8-year old daughter has become really curious about cooking and baking over the last few months, so I try to encourage that interest whenever possible. For years I've created a simple weekly dinner menu, and then shopped for groceries based on the ingredients I've needed for those meals, as well as factored in my family's preferences for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.

This past week my daughter asked to be involved in the process, so we spent a few hours talking about dinner ideas and making a corresponding grocery list. I found myself explaining the concept of budgeting, keeping it simple and only touching on the subject in terms that I felt she could understand. We had fun together, and I gave her free reign over the menu as she pored through cookbooks; we chatted and I willingly wrote down what she wanted to cook together each night.

One of the side dishes she wanted to make was a simple salad involving warm potatoes and sauteed string beans; unfortunately, we found that the string beans we had bought had wilted and become slightly moldy. My daughter was crestfallen initially, until I smiled and said that one of the fun aspects of cooking is being able to change up the ingredients on a whim. We'll just use something else, I told her. Maybe a sliced yellow bell pepper? She happily agreed, with the condition that we leave the pepper raw.

Together, we created a healthy and flavorful salad that was warm and filling, but also really summery and refreshing. While intended to be a side salad, it can easily pass for a vegetarian main course.

Warm Potato and Spinach Salad

You can substitute any vegetable you like for the bell pepper, and even add in extra vegetables if you want to. A few sliced radishes would provide a nice sharp contrast to this salad. Kalamata olives would be a deliciously briny addition. I really wanted to whisk up a simple dressing of Dijon mustard, organic apple cider viniagrette, salt and pepper; but as my husband is not a mustard fan, we simply tossed in a bit of olive oil and it tasted wonderful. A few thin shavings of Parmesan or Asiago cheese on top would be the perfect finishing touch.

Serves: 6-8 as a side dish, or 4 as a main course

For the salad:
5 or 6 medium-sized organic potatoes*
3 tbsp olive oil
Coarse kosher salt, to taste
Coarse ground black pepper, to taste
3 handfuls of organic baby spinach
1 large sweet yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

To season:
1 tbsp olive oil
A little more salt and pepper, to taste

Scrub the potatoes and pat dry. Microwave on high heat for 7 to 10 minutes until fork tender.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil. Carefully cut the hot potatoes into bite-size chunks. Add to the hot skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Stir occasionally, cooking until potatoes are browned and crispy on all sides. If the potatoes start to scorch while cooking, lower the heat slightly.

Place the spinach and bell pepper in a large serving bowl. Add the hot potatoes. Season with the remaining olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss to combine.

Serve the salad while still warm.

*I try to buy organic produce whenever it's available and affordable. That said, use your favorite ingredients.