Avocado Mango Spinach Salad

It was an unusually hot spring day here in Los Angeles and we were going to have a BBQ birthday celebration outside for my lovely sister in law. I wanted to bring a light and flavorful dish to go with all the grilled heavy things, and I went off to the market with only the idea to get ingredients for some kind of salad.

At the farmers' market I picked up beautiful California avocados and a big bunch of cilantro (thank you California for all of your avocados!) I stopped at a grocery store for a few extra things and I saw some really perfectly ripe mangoes. Mangoes and avocados always go so nicely together and they are two of my favorite fruits forever and always. That's when I knew what salad I wanted to make. I decided to pick up some spinach. I wanted a green that would hold up a little to the warm day and the substantial mango and avocado. Butter lettuce or even thinly sliced Napa cabbage would go well in this salad too.

I made a gingery Asian-inspired dressing. These ingredients can hold up to a lot of flavor and the mango, avocado and cilantro go really well with ginger, lime, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil flavors. You don't need all of the ingredients listed, but I do think this type of dressing works better than a more classic French or Mediterranean vinaigrette.

Like all salads this one is infinitely interchangeable depending on your preferences. The stars of this show are creamy avocado and tangy sweet mango... the rest is up to you.

Avocado Mango Spinach Salad
Serves 4-6

for the salad-
5-6 full cups baby spinach
1 large ripe mango, cubed (or 2 if you want even more mango)
1 large ripe avocado, cubed (or 2 if you want even more avocado)
3-4 scallions, sliced thin (red onion or shallot would be good too)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (or sub with roughly chopped cashews)
handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

for the dressing-
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Mirin* (optional)
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger with its juice
1 teaspoon liquid aminos or soy sauce
1 teaspoon agave or honey
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup oil (you want something pretty neutral like grape seed or safflower oil. Avocado oil would work well too)

Add the spinach to a serving dish. Pile the other salad ingredients on top of the spinach.

To make the dressing, combine the vinegar, Mirin, freshly grated ginger (you can do this with a Microplane... or you could even chop super fine if you need to... add more or less depending on how much ginger you love), liquid aminos, agave, and lime juice. Whisk in the sesame oil and grape seed oil (or shake everything up in a jar). Taste the dressing. This step is crucial. If its too tangy add some more oil. If you like it sweeter add more agave or honey. If you don't eat sugar leave the agave and honey out. If you want it saltier add more liquid aminos/soy sauce/salt. And so on and so forth...

Gently toss the salad with the dressing, be careful not to break up the avocado too much. Add as much dressing as you need to lightly coat all of the vegetables. You may have excess salad dressing depending on how heavily or lightly you like your salad dressed.

*Mirin is a sweet rice wine with very low alcohol content that is often used in Japanese cooking. You can usually find it in grocery stores next to the rice vinegar and soy sauce. I like having it on hand because it adds a really nice bright sweetness. It's totally optional here and shouldn't require a special trip to the store.