Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest

03
June
2008

On the Local/Seasonal Table: Spinach

Popeye and Olive Oil can’t be far away.

spinach salad #2 7

Wilted lettuce or spinach salad . . . even as a child I could eat my grandmother’s version until the cows came home, I did and they did. Let’s face it, anything drizzled with bacon drippings is worth eating. Well, some of us think so. My grandmother kept a ‘bacon grease’ container next to her stove. Bacon drippings were never tossed out but used to fry a steak, add to buttermilk hotcakes, biscuits, greens and occasionally to salad dressing. Everything was made from scratch and the bacon grease a valuable part of the homemade scheme. I should be wracked with bacon-induced heart disease, but fortunately I’m not. I eat differently now with a little bacon here and there, a savory addition, in moderation, to a few dishes. I’ve made this Wilted Salad Dressing without the bacon, a vegetarian version, and it’s delicious.

I don’t save bacon grease, but do occasionally lament its absence and remember my grandmother’s mouth-watering meals. The other day I wrote about how herbs magically brighten up anything we cook – bacon is another contender. Oooh, they could campaign, the herbs and the bacon, we could nominate the winner for President and ‘pork belly’ spending would be a contentious campaign issue. I digress, plus I just lost my appetite.

In her book Animal, Vegetable, Mineral Barbara Kingsolver says that if each family in the United States made just one local meal each week, we would reduce our annual oil consumption by 1.1 million barrels. The fuel required to put food on our tables is stunning. I feel chagrined that I forgot about this little detail while consuming whatever/whenever these past years, and that my choices are reflected in our nation’s gluttony of fuel use, much of it for agricultural needs, i.e. to put food from faraway on our plates. If Kingsolver’s stats are accurate, collectively speaking it would diminish fuel consumption significantly if we prepared one local meal each week. And we can do better than that now that we’re getting the hang of it. This spinach salad is one way to get going with a few favorites for your own local table.

spinach salad 3

A Wilted Spinach Salad:

The Spinach: In season in the PNW. I got mine from Willie Greens at the Farmers Market over the weekend. It’s especially tender right now and this is a good time to use it in a salad. Rinse and spin a big bunch and keep it chilled. Six cups of spinach is enough for two generous main dish servings, or several smaller servings.

The Warm Dressing: You can go easy or heavy on the bacon and use one slice, or four, whichever you prefer. Chop the bacon and sauté for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook until almost crisp.

Remove bacon bits and add to bowl of spinach. Drain all but two tablespoons of the oil from the pan and add one thinly sliced medium onion. Sauté onions gently until partly cooked and then add directly to spinach. I used a couple of smallish spring onions from Whistling Train Farm.

Add a splash of olive oil to the now empty pan, more if you’ve used a small amount of bacon; turn heat to medium and add three or four tablespoons of cider, red wine or balsamic vinegar. There will be a burst of sinus-clearing steam, which you can avoid or use to your benefit. Simmer the the oil and vinegar for a few seconds and pour the hot dressing over the spinach, onion and bacon. Toss together and add freshly ground pepper to taste. The spinach wilts when tossed with the warm dressing and that’s expected in a Wilted Spinach Salad. Enjoy.

The spinach is wonderful on its own with just the dressing. Or, add a hard boiled egg, almonds, croutons and cheese for a classic spinach salad. A light meal or a side salad, either way it’s another local option.

I’ve borrowed the audio version of Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, mentioned above, from the library. It’s read largely by Kingsolver herself and is an astounding piece of work. Her writing skills intact, she bombards the listener with all kinds of information, statistics, family and farming stories, delivered with clarity and feeling and with the sweetest slightly southern character throughout. She’s a wonderful mimic which is a bonus in the audio version.


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