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.