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The Ultimate Spinach Salad



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Green Olive, White Bread, Parmesan and Olive Oil
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La Belle Cuisine


The Ultimate Spinach Salad

Sara Moulton
Cooks at Home
by Sara Moulton, 2002,
Broadway Books/Random House


“I just love salad. When I’m in the city, I eat salad every day for lunch.
When I’m on the road for business, I often order salad from room service
for dinner. Of course, I understand that not everyone shares this leafy
passion, (take my husband, please) so when I make a salad at home or
for guests in the Gourmet dining room, I try to dress it up.

I think of this as the ultimate spinach salad because all of the elements –
other than the spinach and the mushrooms – are special. The blue cheese
dressing is prepared from scratch with good blue cheese. The croutons are homemade from rustic Italian bread. The bacon bits are spiced. And the
lowly hard-boiled egg is cooked with extra love to eliminate the green line
dividing the yolk and the white and to keep the white tender. Try it and
see if you don’t agree that this salad is the ultimate.”

Serves 4 to 6 as a main course, 8 as an appetizer

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, preferably
Roquefort, Stilton or Cabrales
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground
black pepper to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons whole milk
1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach leaves
3 hard-boiled eggs*, peeled and
sliced or coarsely chopped
3 to 4 medium cultivated white mushrooms
1 1/2 cups Parmesan Croutons (recipe follows)

Spiced Bacon Bits (recipe follows) or 1/2 pound
bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled

* Place the eggs in a large saucepan and pour in enough cold water
to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the
heat, cover, and set aside for 15 minutes, Transfer the eggs to a bowl
of half ice and half water. Cool completely and then peel under cold
running water. [Sara says she learned this method from Julia Child.
It is foolproof.]

Combine the mayonnaise and sour cream in a small bowl. Stir until
blended and smooth. Fold in the cheese, vinegar, mustard, garlic,
and Worcestershire sauce, Season with salt and pepper. Stir well
and thin with milk as needed to reach the consistency of sour
cream. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Stir
well before serving.
Rinse the spinach leaves and dry them in a salad spinner or use paper
towels to remove as much moisture as possible from the leaves. Tear
the leaves into bite-size pieces and pile into a very large salad bowl.
Arrange the eggs and mushrooms on top. Sprinkle with croutons
and bacon bits. Spoon a large dollop of the dressing in the center.
Toss well just before serving and serve the remaining dressing on
the side.

Parmesan Croutons
Makes about 3 cups

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 loaf rustic Italian bread, about 6 ounces,
cut into 3/4-inch cubes (3 to 4 cups)
2 tablespoons freshly grated
Additional kosher salt and freshly ground
black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the oil, garlic, oregano, basil,
thyme, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the bread and toss well.
Spread out on a jelly-roll pan and bake in the middle of the oven until
lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the croutons with the
cheese and bake until golden brown, about 7 minutes longer. Season
with salt and pepper and cool. The croutons will keep in an airtight
container for 1 week.

Spiced Bacon Bits
Makes about 3/4 cup

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons firmly packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 pound lean bacon, cut into 1/4-inch squares

Combine the Worcestershire sauce, sugar, cayenne and allspice in
a small bowl. Season with pepper. Add the bacon and toss until the
bacon is well coated.
Place the bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring
often, until the bacon is crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to paper
towels to drain. This will keep covered in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Mushrooms: When you are planning to eat cultivated mushrooms
raw, make sure they are fresh, fresh, fresh. If you have ever had a
spinach salad at a restaurant that arrived with slimy dark mushroom
slices, you know what I’m talking about. When cultivated mushrooms
are harvested, they are very firm, very white, and very tight – meaning
you will not be able to see the gills underneath the lid. As the mush-
room loses its moisture, the cap shrinks, exposing the gills. The mush-
room becomes flabby, and the texture is unappealing to eat raw (older
mushrooms are fine for cooking, though). Store cultivated mushrooms
in a loose paper bag or in a container with air holes in it. They will
sweat and get slimy if they are kept too tightly wrapped.

Featured Archive Recipes:
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Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette

P. J. Clark's Spinach, Mushroom
and Bacon Salad

Spinach, Pear and Green Bean Salad
with Riesling Dressing

Spinach Salad with Salmon
and Artichokes

Spinach and Turkey Salad with
Cucumber and Feta Dressing

Strawberry Spinach Salad with
Toasted Almonds

Warm Spinach Salad with
Honey-Mustard Dressing

Wilted Spinach with Smoked Turkey
and Mushrooms


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