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How-To

Spinach Salad Gets a Flavor Makeover

New flavors and textures perk up a classic salad

Fine Cooking Issue 70
Photos: Scott Phillips
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Years ago, I became infatuated with spinach salad, ordering it nearly every time I went out to lunch with my friends. Like most infatuations, my fling with spinach salad followed a predictable trajectory. At first I couldn’t get enough of the salad; then suddenly, for no particular reason, its flavors ceased to tickle my palate, and soon after that, I started noticing the salad’s flaws. The thick, tough spinach leaves, the bland hard-cooked egg, the underwhelming bacon dressing.  

At that point, I suppose I could have abandoned the salad, but instead, I decided to reeinvent it at home.

I replaced the regular spinach with tender baby spinach and added whole leaves of fresh basil for a bright, fresh flavor. I replaced the hard-boiled eggs with broiled grape tomatoes tossed with garlic and herbs. And to guarantee that my palate wouldn’t get bored, I threw in an addictive surprise: spiced candied walnuts. (My recipe yields more than you need for the salad, so you’ll have leftovers for snacking.)  

To zip up the dressing, I let the hot, flavorful tomatoes bathe in the bacon dressing, which warms it further and adds another flavor dimension. Before serving the salad, I spoon in just enough warm bacon dressing to moisten the leaves, and I top the salad with the spicy-sweet walnuts, hot tomatoes, and crumbled bacon. Definitely not boring.

Candied walnuts. Can’t stop eating them. A pinch of cayenne elevates these salty, sweet munchies into the addictive realm.

Baby spinach and fresh basil. At a glance. you might not notice that the salad contains both baby spinach and fresh basil leaves, so the herb’s flavor comes as a delightful surprise.
Broiled grape tomatoes. Tossed in garlic and herbs and then broiled, these sweet tomatoes add warmth and several layers of flavor to the salad.

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