I have a kind of…thing for spinach salads. When growing up, the more traditional combination of spinach, bacon pieces, fresh, raw mushroom slices, boiled eggs and a homemade sweetened vinegar-based dressing was present on our table a lot. Miracle of miracles, it didn’t take me too long to deign to eat it when I was little either. Finally, it got to the point where Sis Blogging Partner and I would request it for special meals, holidays and the like. Nowadays, we make it like the recipe below, because variations, salads need them sometimes!
The blue cheese made me pause briefly in indecision with this one. It’s probably my least favorite cheese, some varieties more than others, but I was curious what it would be like combined with all the other ingredients.
Bagged spinach is pretty much my go-to salad leaf of choice. We also eat it sautéed with garlic a lot in my house, but in its fresh state, it’s one of the more appealing salad greens taste-wise for the hubby and I. There was a time I wouldn’t get anywhere near it. This is adulthood’s gift – the ability to finally appreciate things like spinach.
Grapes were another new item I’d never thought to add to a salad like this before. And we loved them! The other items shown are some of the building blocks of the dressing: white wine vinegar, dijon mustard and honey.
But this, my friends, this is the true first building block of the recipe. The bacon bits will be added to the final results, but the drippings from the rendered bacon is what we first need for the dressing. Incidentally, if the idea of using it makes you cringe, you could always look up one of those basic spinach salad dressings like I mentioned above, discard the bacon drippings and just use the bacon pieces. BUT…we loved this dressing. You just have to tweak it to get it how you prefer.
When the bacon has been set aside, and the pan taken off the heat, add the vinegar, sweetener and mustard to the bacon drippings. You’ll add a little olive oil and some salt and pepper, whisking it all till nicely combined. Taste it and adjust as needed. If you like a more tangy dressing, you might want to add a slight bit more vinegar or mustard. If you’re like me, you’ll want a bit more sweetener. I like to be able to taste the sweetness in a spinach salad dressing. This time the grapes were a little sour, and the cheese packs a wallop of a tang as well, so the dressing being a little sweeter helped that.
Do be careful adding to the bacon drippings. Even off the heat, it might sizzle as you add the rest of the dressing ingredients.
Don’t forget the blue cheese! Just take the sharp tip of a steak knife or other such knife and break the cheese into small pieces or clumps. A little bit goes a long way in one bite of salad.
All that’s left now is to begin the process of appreciating the mess out of this salad, so on goes that awesome dressing.
Add in the cheese, grapes and bacon pieces and give it all a good toss to evenly distribute the dressing.
Honestly? I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this salad as much as I did. I even liked the blue cheese! Together with a bite of the grapes, bacon and spinach, the dressing lending a flavorful hand, the blue cheese became so much more…delicious! This is an incredible salad, but then again, I am a biased spinach salad lover and all. It’s not necessarily a very filling salad – it might be better as a side salad with some grilled chicken or salmon, for example. Or if you are only in for something light, then by all means, have a nice big portion of this. You’re eating mostly wonderful, healthy spinach as is. This is one that’s going on the regular meal rotation at my house. Easy, tasty and er, at least somewhat healthy. Shaaawing!
Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing
from the Food Network Kitchens
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: about 10 minutes Level: Easy Serves: 4 as a side
- 5 slices bacon, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar or honey
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound spinach (not baby), tough stems removed
- 2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
- 4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
- Croutons, for topping
Cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 9 to 11 minutes. Remove to paper towels; reserve the drippings in the skillet.
Whisk the vinegar, sugar, mustard and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper into the drippings. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.
Place the spinach in a large bowl and pour the warm dressing on top; add the grapes, blue cheese and the reserved bacon and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Top with croutons.
I forgot to get croutons and didn’t feel like making any either. We didn’t miss them at all.
Just remember to adjust the dressing to your tastes. I personally feel that mustard overpowers other flavors, so when I made this a second time, I made sure to add less mustard than originally, and added a little more at a time till it was better suited for me.
The second time I made this I didn’t have blue cheese, but I did have some Boursin brand cheese, a garlic herb flavor, that worked just as well, maybe even better. It depends on what kind of cheese you prefer, but I do think a creamier consistency cheese like those two works well in this salad. The Boursin is even softer but can still be crumbled into small pieces with a knife tip.