Zea's Spinach Pepper Jelly Salad for Waitangi Day

This past week Joe and I celebrated our very first Waitangi Day here in New Zealand. The day commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, which made New Zealand a part of the British Empire, guaranteed Māori rights to their land and gave Māori the rights of British subjects.

Joe racing the kids on skateboards at the BBQ.

Joe racing the kids on skateboards at the BBQ.

I guess you could sort of compare it to Fourth of July in the states. It’s a time to enjoy the day off, get together with friends, and eat, drink and be merry. Joe and I were invited to a BBQ at one of his coworker’s homes, and they asked us to bring a salad. I love playing in the kitchen, so I was hoping for more of an opportunity to experiment with a new dish. But if I had to bring a salad, I still wanted to make it dee-lish! So I was inspired to prepare an easy recipe from home.

One of my favorite salad’s is Zea’s Spinach Pepper Jelly Salad. Zea Rotisserie & Grill is a New Orleans restaurant, inspired by the rotisserie cooking of European food markets. Zea serves classic American fare infused with international flavors. My Aunt Kathy often makes this salad at family gatherings, and it’s the perfect pairing of sweet and salty. It’s a super easy recipe, but I like to add my own little modifications, like candied pecans and substituting the blue cheese for feta, since my roommates have never liked blue cheese. In New Orleans, you can actually purchase the pepper jelly dressing in the grocery store, but I find that going the extra mile to home make some of the ingredients, like the dressing and the candied pecans, makes it a bit more special.


  • 12 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 4 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons toasted candied pecans
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • 10 kalamata olives
I LOVE olives, so I used way more than 10. :)

I LOVE olives, so I used way more than 10. :)


  • 1/4 cup pepper jelly
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven at 225 degrees F (105 degrees C). Spread your pecans across a baking sheet (I always line mine with foil, so the sugar doesn’t get too sticky). Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and combined with the brown sugar. Pour evenly over the pecans and place in the oven for 20-30 minutes, watching carefully. You don’t want the pecans to burn!

  2. Quickly toast your sesame seeds on a frying pan on medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally. Remove the seeds when they have slightly darkened and become fragrant.
  3. Separately, combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients, and whisk or blend together until you have a nice even consistency.

  4. I’m quite a "relish" kind of person. I love my pickles, artichokes, olives, etc., so in a salad I like to make sure I’ve got a nice even proportion of every little topping in every bit of my salad. So I add a step here and chop up my olives and sun-dried tomatoes, just to make sure there’s a little something in every bite.

  5. Finally toss together the spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, pecans, golden raisins, toasted sesame seeds, blue cheese crumbles and kalamata olives and cover in the pepper jelly dressed to taste. Enjoy!