Bring on the fresh air, barking dogs, jugglers, musicians, strollers, vendors, local produce, fresh baked breads, and artisinal cheeses! For the past few weeks, I've been perfectly content waiting for the Lexington Farmers' Market to relocate outdoors under crisp blue skies and budding trees. Although the indoor market has been great, I'd decided to take a break, lie low, sit back, and wait for the big move. That was my intent... until I found myself smack dab in the middle of it while walking to work ( knife kit in tow) to finish up food prep for an event. I tried to swoop through the market without stopping, but got blindsided by billowly bags of curly Savoy spinach. Whiplashed. Hooked. I couldn't help myself. The surprizing pillows of spinach hijacked my sensibilities. Sold.
Last Friday, I turned to Michael and happily announced that we were having wilted spinach salads for supper. "With a warm bacon dressing on meatless Friday?", he asked.
"Without bacon.", I mumbled, coyly. Lent.
Most wilted spinach salads contain similar components; spinach, mushrooms, onions, hard boiled eggs, bacon, and warm bacon dressing. I omitted the bacon while adding other unexpected ingredients. With little cooking involved, it was fast and fun to throw together.
I'm not a huge fan of hard boiled eggs. I wanted jiggly runny eggs, so I simmered 2 large organic eggs for 5 minutes before carefully plunging them into cold water to stop the cooking process, peeling them, and setting them aside. After pulling the tough stems from the hardy spinach, I tossed the leaves with vibrant torn radicchio leaves, washed them, and slid them into the refrigerator to crisp.
Warm un-bacon dressing. I sauteed a small minced shallot in 4 tablespoons of olive oil. To mimic the slight smokiness of the absent bacon, I seasoned the shallots with chardonnay-infused oak smoked sea salt. When the smoked salt melted into the oil and the shallots were a bit caramelized, I deglazed the pan with 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, added 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard, black pepper, and 3 tablespoons of pure maple syrup. Yep. After pulling the warm dressing from the heat, I emulsified it with a small whisk before pouring the sweet tart dressing over the spinach and radicchio leaves.
After a few turns with a pair of tongs, the salad gently wilted from the warm dressing. I swirled the glistening leaves into large pasta bowls, topping them with the dreamy soft boiled eggs, julienned red bell peppers, and thinly sliced snow peas before finishing with halved kiwiberries for unexpected tiny bursts of freshness.
With layers of flavor, the whacked out salad totally worked. The earthy bitterness of the spinach and radicchio combination punched through the tart sweet sticky warm dressing. Soft egg yolks dripped through the wilted leaves, covering them with an unctuous essence usually provided by bacon fat. While the snow peas and red bell peppers added crispy wet bites, the jeweled sweet kiwiberries popped like juicy flavor bombs.