[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on the PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.

My Take on Spinach Salad
19 April 2012

We had a "family gathering" over the weekend for a couple of my students and one of their wives, and it was a festival of conversation, game-playing (the excellent Arkham Horror), and, of course, eating. The centerpiece was cassoulet, something of a speciality of mine I must confess. This particular cassoulet featured fresh duck, homemade duck confit, smoked ham hock and a smoked kielbasa.

Since the point of the weekend was to share quality time with my friends, there are no pictures of the cassoulet and no recipe to follow. Instead of taking notes and pictures for this website, we chatted, laughed, ate and drank and enjoyed each other's company without worrying about anything Internetish or computery. (Although, to be fair, one person did install Linux on an old cell-phone over breakfast one morning.)

With the cassoulet, we had a lovely spinach salad, and there were enough ingredients left over for a reprise the next night. I did take notes that time. To go with it, I pan-fried up a lovely bit of steak from a slab which the same person who installed Linux had brought. (He also brought kidneys, of which more anon.) A simple and delicious sauce for the steak completed the meal.

Simple Tomato Sauce for Steak

Put all the ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for at least an hour, essentially until the wine has all cooked out and what you have left is a thick, tomatoey ... not paste, exactly, since the tomatoes went in chunks, but it should look much like a chutney. Spoon it over a simple seared or grilled steak. If you wish, garnish with scallions or ramps. ('Tis the season ...)

While the sauce is cooking, you can make the salad.

Spinach Salad

[Layered Salad] Start with the bacon. Slab or slices will do, because in either case you should cut them into matchsticks and toss them into a medium-to-medium-hot skillet. Let the fat render out and let the little pieces get crispy. (Usually I prefer my bacon chewy, but for this salad, crispy is better.) When the bacon is done remove it with a slotted spoon, but don't do anything rash with the bacon grease. Just let it be.

Meanwhile, wash the spinach, drain it and cut into salad-sized pieces. Or cut it and then drain it, your choice.

For the onions, the best choice is a mandolin. If you've got one, run your onion through with the narrowest blade - I've got a 0.75mm. If you don't, cut the onion as thin as you can with the best technology you have.

The 'shrooms could also be run through the mandolin, but I like them a little thicker, so I run them through the food processor instead. Then you may assemble the spinach, onions and mushrooms.

While not traditional, exactly, I add cheese at this point. Feta is good, but in this case, I used a crumbly goat cheese that was nowhere near as salty as Feta, and it was good, too. If you opt for cheese, add it now. If your dressing is warm enough when you add it, the cheese will get a bit soft, too - fantastic.

[Tossed Salad] At this point, you can wait for a while if you want; that is to say, this much can be prepared ahead of time. When you are ready to serve, make sure the bacon grease is hot - which if you're moving straight from cooking the bacon to serving is easy. Some folks would tell you to pour off all but a tablespoon or two the fat before this next bit, and you can if you want, but I don't. I use all the porky, fatty goodness which the bacon has bequeathed me. Add the balsamic vinegar to the skillet and deglaze like a mad person, letting the vinegar and oil get back up to a nice, pretty hot, temperature. Dump that over the salad, along with the bacon, and toss. The hot dressing should wilt the spinach ever so slightly while it cools.

© 2012 Jeff Berry
The Aspiring Luddite