(Sorry, my vegan friends...this one isn't for you.)
So as a child I lived in the Southeast for several years in Kentucky,
close to where my American grandmother lived (and still resides). And
although my mother did not have much money and we often had no food in
our house, I could always count on a satisfying and much-needed plate of
food from a reliable source, Granny's kitchen. One of my favorite
things that she made was a wilted lettuce salad, which came in many
forms. The best one was a 7-layer salad that sat in the fridge over
night with the dressing nestled between the different layers of lettuce,
veggies, bacon, and eggs. By morning, the veggies would be a little
soft, and the lettuce would be slightly wilted. I enjoyed this salad as
much as most kids my age enjoyed eating pizza. Another type of wilted
salad she made would require a hot vinegar-based dressed that was poured
over the top of the salad, just barely 'cooking' the lettuce. Through
the years, I've experimented with making hot dressings and even throwing
my greens for a few seconds in the saute pan. (I LOVE cooked greens,
any way you serve them up!) The best one I've made to date is a wilted
spinach salad, which has received a variety of accompanying veggies and
toppings. Although it's not a salad that is low in fat, it is still
packed with good-for-you-greens, and you actually need a little fat to
help transport those nutrients from the vegetables to the blood stream.
Here's the one I made tonight. I did not measure anything out, so I'm
just giving you the best estimate I can on this.
Wilted Spinach Salad with Bacon Vinegarette (serves 1 or 2, if you're willing to share)
2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves, washed and rinsed
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3-4 asparagus spears, woody ends cut off and the rest of the spear chopped into 1 inch pieces
3-4 pieces of onion, thinly sliced (red tastes best!)
1 handful sliced mushrooms
3 pieces of bacon (I use uncured and nitrate-free)*
1 egg, hard-boiled and chopped
1/4 C. green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 C. chickpeas (garbanzo beans, I just used canned and rinsed really well)
4-5 small tomatoes, like cherry, cut into quarters (I used a gourmet variety of cherries, different colors)
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar (or white if that's what you have on hand)
1 Tbsp. white sugar, or sweetener of choice (I used xylitol)
Salt and Black Pepper, for taste
First get your spinach and half the green onions tossed together on a large plate.
Heat a saute/frying pan to just below medium heat with the olive
oil. Once heated well, throw in the asparagus, onions, and mushrooms.
Salt and pepper to taste. Saute until just cooked, about 5-7 minutes,
stirring frequently. (You can also just cover the mixture and turn
the heat down if you need to do other things. Your veggies will need to
cook a little longer and will get a little softer due to the steam.)
Remove veggies from pan and place in a bowl, covering to keep warm.
Next, place the bacon strips in the same pan, over medium heat, and
cook until close to being crispy, flipping over halfway through cooking
Remove bacon from pan and place on a plate lined with napkins. Once
the bacon has cooled a bit, you can simply crumble it with your fingers
to use as garnish for the salad.
Turn the heat down to low and place the garlic in the reserved bacon
fat. Saute the garlic for about a minute, just enough to soften and
render out the flavor. Then toss in both vinegars and the sugar. Stir
together and keep on the low heat for another minute. You can also throw
in a pinch of salt and pepper for taste.
Immediately pour this mixture over the top of the spinach and green
onions. Then top with the asparagus/onion/mushroom mixture, then the
tomatoes, the chickpeas, and finally garnish with the chopped eggs,
crispy bacon pieces, and the remaining green onions. Finally, before
eating, I like to toss everything together to make sure the dressing
coats everything well and softens the spinach leaves. You can add
additional salt and pepper if you like.
*A quick note on bacon...
While we do not eat pork in our home, I do occasionally enjoy a bacon
slice or two on a sandwich and in certain dishes where it's almost
required for taste. So with that being said, I am always sure to
purchase natural bacon that is uncured and nitrate-free, and try to make
sure it comes from a farm where the pigs were fed proper diets (NOT
animal by-products which is common practice on commercial farms) and
allowed to roam. If you are restricted totally from eating pork due to
religious beliefs, then turkey or beef bacon would be another option.
Turkey bacon is very common here, but not beef. I did, however, find it
at a local Trader Joe's, and the price was reasonable and it was
uncured/nitrate-free. You can also ask around your local farms to see
if they make any on site.