Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Salad of Many Virtues

I remember it like it was yesterday: the day I learned that French salad is not diet food. A salad in France is a happy meal - not some thrilless plate of virtue that leaves you wishing you'd ordered the blooming onion. G. took me to a Chez Gladine, a student hole in the wall in Paris, in the villagey quartier of the Buttes-aux-Cailles. There were shared tables with red checkered clothes, hundreds of bumper stickers on the mirrored back wall. But what made the biggest impression was the salad - it was served in a huge crockery bowl -instead of iceberg with When-Harry-Met-Sally sauce on the side, I dove into a world of bumpy, ruffled, mustard and olive oil slicked feuille de chĂȘne lettuce, chucks of roasted potatoes, qartered tomatoes, comtĂ© cheese, seared chicken livers, dried duck gizzards, and of course, waiting at the bottom, just to see if I'd get there, crispy lardons - the bacon bits that changed my life forever.

We are in mi-saison in Provence at the moment, which means that one day you need your sunscreen, the next day you want to light your wood burning stove. We've begun eating outside in our newly gussied up courtyard; the bees are louder than helicopters. A salad that mixes hot and cold, sweet and savory, is my perference for this time of year.

Wash and pat dry a few generous handfuls of fresh spinach, stems and all. (I know what you're thinking, but the perfectly calibrated baby leaves, pre-washed and sold in the plastic bag in Shoprite probably won't stand up to what I have in mind...)

In a large frying pan, fry up 8 oz. of lardons, or diced slab bacon. When the bacon has rendered it's fat and begun to crisp up, add a generous handful of whole walnuts. Stir until coated and crisp - about 1 minute more. Shut the heat. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and walnuts to a seperate dish. Put your washed spinach leaves into the warm pan and stir to coat with the bacon fat. Add a teaspoon of olive oil, a generous pinch of sea salt, a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and a good grinding of pepper. Toss the whole lot, right there in the pan.

In a large salad bowl combine the spinach, bacon, walnuts and top with a thinly sliced pear. Serve with whole grain bread and Morbier or an aged goat's cheese.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer. Bon appetit!


  1. The courtyard looks lovely and the salad sounds like just the ticket for a small dinner party ! Thank you.

  2. Delish...going on my menu for next week. I think you can buy regular spinach in bags also. I'm sure G does not agree, but I think bagged greens are one of the greatest inventions of this century!

  3. Oh this salad sounds divine!! I'm all about large fresh salads....and the bigger, the better. Love the idea of toasting the walnuts, and especially the use of bacon. Mmm.....

    Just cleaned up my google reader & with the use of my new iPad am excited to actively follow my favorite blogs again. My old laptop was totally inhibiting my ability to keep up on the blogosphere as far as my reading is concerned. I'm SO excited to not be hit or miss here and there. ;)

    Just recently visited NYC for the first time...and fell in LOVE!

  4. Yummmmm, from a young child I have always had a love for salads. I don't like plain old boring ones, we love to toast pumpkin seeds and pine nuts and sprinkle over the top.

    My favourite home made dressing is Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic or Cider Vinegar, sea salt and black pepper, with good hearty dash of truffle oil - heaven.

    I am definitely going to try this one.
    Thanks very much for this idea xx

  5. Wonderful salad, I had it for dinner last night, other than I did not use the walnuts cuz I don't eat them. It was fresh, tasty, wonderful...thanks for letting us know about all your wonderful recipes.

  6. That's exactly how I like my salads! Less picturesque surroundings though.

  7. Yum yum yum. I love salads like this. I'm already in the midst of dinner for tonight, but perhaps tomorrow . . .

  8. Salad doesn't seem so boring after all...!

    There's an award waiting for you over at my blog.

  9. Your Provencal courtyard is so lovely and inviting!
    I just finished your book (read it in 2 sittings, could not put it down!) and cannot wait for your next one!!!!! I adored your humor, especially with your Mom, and am anxious to try the tempting recipes! I inhale anything with French culture, history and food. You have me dreaming of my next trip to France!