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Versatile spinach salad all about opposites

PERFECT FOR: Office luncheons, potlucks, weeknight suppers, dieters.

MAKE AND TAKE: Assemble the salad and pack the dressing separately. Toss just before serving.

TIP: The key to this salad is the combination of sweet and tangy, soft and crunchy. So feel free to mix and match ingredients to achieve the same flavor-texture results. Substitute walnuts for the almonds and dried cranberries for the cherries, or try pecans and a can of drained mandarin orange segments.

Share the recipe for your favorite potluck, bake sale or casual gathering dish with us. Send the recipe, a short testimonial, your name, phone number and hometown to Jeanne Besser, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Eighth Floor, 72 Marietta St. NW, Atlanta, Ga., 30303. Or e-mail her at jbesser@ajc.com.

SALAD

Spinach Cherry Salad

1/2 cup slivered almonds

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 (10 ounce) bag spinach leaves, washed

1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion

1/2 cup dried cherries

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

- Heat a small, dry frying pan over medium heat.

- Add the almonds and toast, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden, about 4 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a bowl to cool.

- In the same hot pan, toast the sesame seeds until fragrant and golden, about 1 minute. Transfer to a separate small bowl.

- Place the spinach leaves in a serving bowl. Top with the red onion, dried cherries and cooled almonds.

- To the bowl with the sesame seeds, stir in the vinegar, sugar and poppy seeds. Whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

- At serving time, pour the dressing over the salad and toss.

Makes 6 servings. The quantities are easily doubled for a crowd.

Hands on: 10 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Per serving: 216 calories (61 percent from fat), 5g protein, 18g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 16g fat (2g saturated), no cholesterol, 41mg sodium

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