Wow! Hotter than a hot thing all week in London - just like a proper summer. And proper summer calls for proper salad, salad as a complete meal. Which is fine by me as I love salad in all its many guises - a good salad should bring joy to your day. It needs flavour and texture and colour and perfumes to tempt you to try a morsel of this and a soupçon of that. Though the possiblities are endless the temptation to add everything you have to hand or in the fridge is best avoided.
I used to think most salads should properly be made with raw ingredients for the lovely crunch of carrots and cabbage denying the bland in creamy coleslaw, the dense rich perfume of a tomato still warm from the sun. And there are indeed many fine salads that are exclusively raw - but why limit yourself? Cooked elements served cold or at room temperature or even a little warm all qualify and may be fabulous.
This salad, which is an adaptation of one from the pioneer woman who writes a fine sassy blog about many things, including some great food. What appealed to me when I came across it is the variety of temperatures to match textures, and a palette of flavours that work togther but are tasted individually, the test of a great salad.
So on a hotter than it should be Monday night, we got to watch the the highlights of tennis from Wimbledon and sup on this very fine meal. It requires no more complicated accompaniment than crusty bread.
Warm Spinach & Bacon Salad
100g smoked back bacon, cut into thick strips
1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbspn basil oil
12 white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
100g baby spinach, washed, dried, and large stems removed
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoons sugar
1 tspn chopped fresh tarragon
Salt & ground black pepper
Cover with water in a small pan, bring to a boil, then turn off heat and allow to sit in water for 20 minutes. Drain off water and add ice on top of eggs.
Fry bacon until crisp and golden, about 20 minutes on a low heat. Remove to a paper towel covered plate to drain. Remove 3 tablespoons grease and set aside.
Add basil oil to a separate pan over medium heat and add the red onions. Cook slowly until onions are caramelized and reduced, 15-20 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Slice mushrooms and add them to the same pan. Cook slowly until caramelized and brown. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Peel and slice eggs.
Make hot bacon dressing: Warm the rendered bacon fat over a medium-low then whisk in the vinegar and sugar and heat thoroughly. Check and adjust seasoning.
Add spinach to a large bowl. Arrange onions, mushrooms, tarragon and bacon on top. Pour hot dressing over the top; toss to combine.
Arrange eggs over the top and serve.
I have to admit the clincher for me was the dressing made from the hot fat rendered from the bacon. Has to be special. There is a woman in the office where I work who doesn't eat pork. There is no bacon, no crackling, no salami, no grilled pork chops, no chorizo, morcilla or proscuitto in her life. A choice I could never make.