These are the questions I sought to answer with this recipe. Instead of using hot fat to wilt the spinach leaves, I used other hot ingredients: sautéed onion, toasted pecans and the bacon itself. That way, I could make a healthier dressing with extra virgin olive oil.
The warm ingredients wilted the spinach nicely. Not so much that it resembled cooked spinach, but just enough to give it a softer texture. The bacon bits I added first didn’t really do much, but tossing in the hot onions and pecans right out of the pan did the trick. In addition to the traditional hard-cooked egg, I added celery for crunch and fresh mint, an idea I got from the Canlis Salad, which also has bacon.
Wilted Spinach and Bacon Salad
Makes 2 salads
6 oz spinach
1/4 lb bacon, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup pecan halves
1 tbsp. maple syrup
2 celery ribs, cut on a sharp angle
2-3 tbsp. fresh mint, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. smoked extra virgin olive oil (may use regular extra virgin olive oil)
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Fresh-ground black pepper
1. Place eggs in a saucepan and fill with enough cold water to cover the eggs by one inch. Heat over medium-high heat until the water boils. Remove from heat, cover and allow to rest undisturbed for 10 minutes. Remove eggs from hot water and place in ice water for about 5 minutes. Crack eggs all over and then roll on a flat surface. Peel eggs and discard shell. Slice eggs into quarters.
2. Wash and dry spinach and place in a large bowl. Heat a medium frying pan over medium heat. Cook the bacon until it is browned and crispy. Drain bacon on paper towels and add to bowl and toss with spinach while still hot. Pour off most of the bacon fat, leaving a couple teaspoons. Add the red onion and sauté until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add to bowl and toss with spinach and bacon while hot.
3. Heat a small frying pan over medium-low heat. Add pecans and toast until fragrant, about 7 minutes. Add maple syrup, turn off the heat, and stir until nuts are evenly coated. Add hot nuts to bowl and toss with spinach, bacon and onions. After the salad has cooled a bit, add the celery and mint.
4. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard and pepper. Add to salad and toss to combine. Serve topped with a little sprinkle of parmigiano-reggiano.