Who says salads are just for summer? This hearty spinach salad with hard boiled eggs, mushrooms, red onions and bacon hits the spot any time of year.
When I'm rushing about on a day of errands, I sometimes stop for fast food. And there's nothing faster (and healthier) than cruising the salad bars at Whole Foods or Ralph's.
I'm not looking for Mr. Goodbar, just Mr. Good Deal. But buyer beware. The bars charge one flat rate per pound, whether you're filling up on beets or blue cheese, carrots or caviar. Stay clear of the heavy but cheap items like dense, raw veggies. I once paid Whole Foods more than $10 for a very small salad that was heavy on red onions and beets and light on lettuce. Ouch!
Since then I've made a bit of a science of getting the most salad bar bang for the buck. One of the best bets is the crumbled bacon, an easy (and lightweight) way to add pizazz to any salad. As a matter of fact, it's such a good deal that I often purchase a "salad" of nothing but the bacon crumbles from Ralph's.
When you consider that the average price of uncooked bacon is $5.00 per pound and half of that cooks away in grease, Ralph's salad bar bacon crumbles at $5.99 per pound are a steal. A quarter pound is enough to top several big salads and a few bowls of soup.
Best of all, it makes salad making a cinch when the bacon's already fried up and crumbled.
Last week, I was in the mood for a spinach and bacon salad, so I purchased a giant bag from Super King in Altadena. The bag was somewhere between the size of a small pillow and the Island of Guam. And at $3.49, it was about ten times cheaper than the 6 oz. bag for $3.99 I saw at Ralph's.
I made bacon and spinach salad for lunch twice last week. Since the bacon was already cooked and crumbled, all I had to do was boil eggs, slice red onions and mushrooms and whip up a balsamic vinagrette dressing. Lunch was ready in less than 10 minutes. And I think it cost me about a dollar.
Fast Food: Tossed with balsamic vinagrette and served with a side of cruncy bread sticks, this makes an easy, satisfying lunch.
Bacon and Spinach Salad
Hard boiled eggs, sliced or chopped
Red onions, sliced
Other yummy options: chopped tomato (when in season), peas, blue cheese, chopped avocado
Balsamic Vinagrette Dressing
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
minced garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste
Put the ingredients into a small jar, shake and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
In addition to those two spinach salads, I made a big batch of spinach Florentine. I gave away a two-quart bag to a neighbor, and I'm still drowning in spinach. I think I'll try this recipe from Closet Cooking for sauteed chard with raisins and pine nuts. I'll just substitute spinach for the chard and will probably use dried cranberries instead of raisins. And maybe I'll try pecans instead of pine nuts because that's what I have on hand. So much for following the recipe, but I think I'm true to the concept of something bitter, something sweet and something crunchy.
Do you have any other favorite spinach recipes?
Do you have a salad bar strategy?