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Spinach & Basil Salad with Tomatoes, Candied Walnuts & Warm Bacon Dressing

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Serves 4

Add some new flavors and textures to perk up a classic spinach salad: fresh basil adds an unexpected flavor boost, the broiled grape tomatoes add warmth, and the candied walnuts, enhanced with a pinch of cayenne, are sweet, salty, and earthy.   

  • 8 oz. (5-1/2 lightly packed cups) baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 2 Tbs. white-wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tsp. olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, washed and dried
  • 1-1/2 tsp. dried herbes de Provence
  • 1/2 tsp. dehydrated minced or granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Candied Walnuts

In a large salad bowl, toss the spinach and basil. Cut each slice of bacon into thirds. Cook in a medium skillet over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp; drain on paper towels. Reserve 1 Tbs. of the bacon fat. Crumble the bacon into pieces.

In a medium metal bowl, whisk the vinegar with the mustard. Slowly whisk in 1/3 cup of the oil and then whisk in the 1 Tbs. bacon fat. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Set aside in a warm place.

Position an oven rack as close as possible to the broiler element. Put a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet on the rack and heat the broiler to high. Toss the  tomatoes with the remaining 2 tsp. olive oil, the herbes de Provence, dehydrated garlic, and kosher salt. Pour the tomatoes onto the hot pan and broil, stirring occasionally, until the skins are cracked and blistered and the flesh is warmed through, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn off the broiler. Transfer the tomatoes with a slotted spoon to the bowl with the salad dressing. Stir to coat and mix the seasonings into the dressing. Put the bowl in the oven to keep warm until ready to serve.

Just before serving, transfer the tomatoes from the dressing to another bowl with a slotted spoon. Whisk the dressing to recombine. Add half of the bacon to the greens. Drizzle the greens with 3 Tbs. of the dressing and toss lightly to  coat. Add more dressing only if needed; don’t overdress the salad. Mound the greens on four salad plates. Garnish with the tomatoes, the remaining bacon, and some of the candied walnuts (you’ll have leftovers for snacking). Serve immediately.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 750; Fat (g): 61; Fat Calories (kcal): 550; Saturated Fat (g): 8; Protein (g): 15; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 22; Carbohydrates (g): 44; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 29; Sodium (mg): 1140; Cholesterol (mg): 10; Fiber (g): 8;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Wonderful salad! It was definitely the favorite dish of the entire evening and everyone commented on it. The basil brings such a fresh note to the plate and is a great surprise with each bite. The nuts were also a huge hit. I put the remaining nuts out with the cheese platter to start and they were gone before dinner was even served.

This is now my husband's favorite salad. And our company raved about it as well. The combination of flavors just seemed to work so well together.

We loved this salad. It's such a nice change. I didn't have access to alot of fresh basil so I used what I had and stacked the leaves and sliced them thinly. It distributed better in the toss. The candied walnuts are to die for. The broiled tomatoes are warm and creamy in the salad. My husband loved this salad because he said it tasted so fresh. I dressed enough spinach for two but made up the entire dressing recipe so we could use a little extra dressing. The results were yummy.

Each component of this recipe was good, but I didn't care for everything together. The combination of spinach, basil, and the dressing was simple and perfect, but the flavor was lost when combined with everything else. On a humorous note: One of my three teenage boys said it tasted like lawn care with dressing, but you can look at this positively if you apply the comment to freshness.

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