Monday, November 10, 2008

Bringin' Home the Bacon, Drowning in Spinach

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

Fresh spinach
Hard boiled eggs, sliced or chopped
Red onions, sliced
Mushrooms, sliced
Crumbled bacon
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
minced shallot
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?


Anonymous said...

I too made the Whole Foods error and paid double-digits for a salad. But yours looks yummy. Think I'll stop by Ralphs and Food King (and the mean Italian grocer, because I need parmesan on mine.)

Susan C said...

I think Whole Foods is on to the likes of me. They have a new salad bar special for a fixed price of $7.99, but they charge a buck extra if you want bacon or avocado.

BTW, not all of the Ralph's have the bacon crumbles at the salad bar. Of course, our pathetic Altadena Ralph's doesn't even have a salad bar (or deli or butcher or bakery), but you can find the bits at the Hastings Ranch store.

Patrizzi Intergarlictica said...

I love all things edible, as you do. But I love more your spirit and strength. You are a walking piece of art in my view-and I am not alone in this vision. One must be in the presence of such a wisp as you. I'd rather do a sculpture of you, if I had my choice, and put it in a lovely public garden-exclaim to the passers by that this is a lady that held your needs high in her mind's eye.

I am still struggling, dear spinach queen, with ideas for you to dispatch. I am often wondering what I will leave here after I am gone.

Susan C said...

"A walking piece of art?!?" I know you mean that metaphorically, but I have never had such high praise! You are too kind, Miss H!

Anonymous said...

Miss H is never wrong about these things.

Anonymous said...

Susan & MH, check out blue kitchen. He has a recipe for steak and blue cheese.

Margaret said...

What good advice in these frugal times, and the salad looks yummy.

Unknown said...

What timing! I was just out the other evening and ordered this. Can anything with bacon be bad?

Anonymous said...

Spinach is always better with bacon. But then again, is there anything that isn't better with bacon?

Anonymous said...

I have to find Super King in Altadena. Where? I drive to Dogwoods in Monrovia for the pillow of spinach. Dogwoods also sells other fruits and vegetable at under a dollar prices. Have you tried the market (Apple?) I think, on Lincoln (I think)??

I wonder if Super King and Dogwood are in "the family" stores?

Susan C said...

OK, you gals don't need to butter me up. There's no more apple butter. : )

PA, the Super King is in Altadena on Lincoln Blvd., just north of Woodbury. I used to frequent several Armenian markets for my produce, but this place has them beat in every area - selection, quality and price.

What's more the aisles are wide and the lighting fantastic with a great combination of natural and energy-efficient lighting. (I'm something of an expert on this topic.)

Anonymous said...

I just went to their web site. I'm checking it out soon. I'm out of butter.

Laurie Allee said...

I never thought to use the salad bar to buy bacon crumbles. What a smart idea!

My favorite recipe with spinach is an Indian dish with black eyed peas, tomatoes,garlic, a zillion curry spices and spinach made in a skillet and served over basmati rice. I make it every New Years Day as my take on the black eyed peas for good luck tradition.

test it comm said...

That is a tasty and hearty looking salad.

sj said...

That salad looks divine! Oh man I love salad! :D

Baby Bird said...

You are a genius. I am a salad bar maniac . . . and probably the most stupid. I actually fill up on boiled eggs. Cheap cheap so cheap to buy raw, and so expensive on the bar.

I'd love to get your email address because I have several things to ask you. And I have a comment about the Jonas Brother incident that will make you laugh. I clicked my email address below.....

Susan C said...

Thanks, Kevin and Jo.

Baby Bird, Yes, I confess - I am a salad bar genius. Ha! Or maybe just a major cheap skate.

I didn't see your email address. Mine is susancarrier AT

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Anonymous said...


Kevin said...

Thanks for an amazing recipe, love your blog
Low Fat Salad Recipes