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 chêne lettuce, chucks of roasted potatoes, qartered tomatoes, comté 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!
Posted by Elizabeth Bard at 5:40 AM