This New Classic Spinach Salad has all the components of the original but uses a healthier olive oil dressing in place of the hot bacon grease version, leaving the spinach fresh and crispy instead of wilted. Xanthan gum helps the dressing stay emulsified and creamy and replaces the more traditional but strongly flavored Dijon mustard.
When I was talking to The Artist about what I was going to make for today’s Food Network #FallFest celebration of spinach, he begged me to create a new spinach salad recipe. The original spinach salad uses a hot bacon grease-based dressing to lightly wilt the leaves. It turns out that this version is one of the few salads that he truly dislikes. It is my pleasure to create something bright and new that we all can enjoy for years to come!
When you open the bottle of rice wine vinegar and take a whiff, it smells like a slightly less pungent vinegar, but when you combine it with the maple syrup and oil, the natural sweetness of the maple comes forward and you wind up with a slightly sweet and tangy dressing, perfect for any number of vegetable, pasta, or grain salads.
A traditional spinach salad contains bacon. While The Artist did not want the drippings used in the vinaigrette, I definitely wanted to keep the bacon as an important component of my salad. I love bacon. Any bacon, any day, any time. I am a happy girl when there is bacon on the menu. You can use less expensive bacon, but honestly a high quality thick-cut bacon will make a huge difference in this meal. If you are gluten-intolerant and have to avoid most cured meats, Applegate and Jones Dairy Farm make fantastic gluten-free bacon!
Look at the market for beautiful heirloom cherry tomatoes. But if you are making this salad in the middle of winter, leave out the tomatoes. It is better to wait until next summer for fresh-from-the-garden beauties.
One trick to this salad is to use baby spinach. When it is picked early it is tender and sweet. The older it gets and the larger the leaves, the tougher and more bitter it becomes.
Thanks to the eggs and bacon, this can easily be a main course salad so it is easier to justify buying the best fresh spinach you can find.
This is one recipe where you can use any type of mushroom that you like and it won’t make a huge difference. I chose cremini (baby portobellos) because they are readily available in my grocery store and The Artist likes them, but you could just as easily use regular white, shiitake, or any other variety.
You may read the directions to toast the pecans and scoff at the extra step thinking I’m crazy for asking you to do this. But it makes a huge difference in the fullness of flavor of the nuts.
You just place them on a baking sheet pan, pop them into a hot oven, and let them roast, shaking the pan once or twice. When you can smell them and they are toasty and fragrant, it is time to take them out of the oven. With a few minutes in the oven they take on a richer, deeper, nuttier flavor that is truly addicting. Set them aside to cool while you assemble the rest of the salad.
If you want to make this as a side salad or are serving vegetarians or vegans, just leave out the bacon and eggs. It will still be delicious. Some yellow beets and red bell peppers would brighten the salad and help make it more attractive and tempting.
While I loved all the components of this salad, in my opinion the dressing is the real star and I can’t wait to use it on other salads this month. The dressing pulls everything together with the pungent characteristic of vinegar offset by the oil with a hint of sweetness that balances the slight bitterness of the spinach, the hot bite of the onions, and the saltiness of the bacon.
I hope you enjoy this new take on an old classic. The Artist was thrilled with this New Classic Spinach Salad and my interpretations. Make sure you check out the other spinach recipes from my fellow bloggers (links below the recipe) and go over to the Pinterest page for a one-stop-shop for all the recipes from this series on the Food Network website!
Did you enjoy this recipe? Let me know in the comments, I love hearing from you!
Key Ingredients for New Classic Spinach Salad:
- Rice wine vinegar, maple syrup, olive oil, red onion or shallots
- Pecans, thick-cut bacon, eggs, baby spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes
Soaking the onion slices in ice water helps remove some of the heat and bite of raw onions. If you don’t like the intensity of raw onions in your salad, you can microwave them for a few seconds in a little water or lightly sauté them before patting dry and adding to the salad.
To make this a vegetarian or vegan option, leave out the bacon and eggs. You can add some cooked quinoa or black beans for protein.
How to make New Classic Spinach Salad:
- Whisk together the dressing ingredients until smooth and emulsified; set aside
- Slice the onions thinly and soak in a bowl of cool water with a couple of ice cubes in it; set aside
- Toast the pecans in a 350°F oven; set aside
- Cook the eggs in hot water or steam for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a bowl of ice water and cool until you can easily handle them; peel the shells off and cut in half lengthwise then each half in thirds and set aside
- Sauté the bacon over medium heat until browned and crispy; transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, and when cool, crumble into small pieces
- Soak the spinach leaves in a bowl of cool water, agitating gently with your hands then let sit for 5 minutes to let the sand and grit settle to the bottom of the bowl; gently lift the spinach out of the water and place on clean kitchen towels, pat dry, pinch off the stems and discard
- Place the spinach leaves in a large bowl, drain the onions and pat dry then add to the spinach, add half the pecans, half the bacon, all the mushrooms and tomatoes; toss until evenly distributed
- Drizzle the dressing lightly over the top (use about half), season lightly with salt and pepper, and toss again until everything is coated with the dressing
- Divide between plates, sprinkle the tops with reserved pecans and bacon, arrange egg wedges and tomatoes around the plate and on top of the greens, and serve immediately; pass additional dressing at the table in a small pitcher
If you buy pre-washed greens, you should still rinse them well in cold water. They may still have grit or sand on the leaves. Place in a bowl of cold water and agitate it gently to loosen any debris. Let sit for 5 minutes, giving the grit time to drift to the bottom of the bowl. Then gently lift the leaves out with your hands and pat dry.
Xanthan gum is easy to find in grocery stores thanks to the gluten-free baking community. You’ll find it in the baking aisle, usually near the baking powder and baking soda. You can also buy it online through Bob’s Red Mill or on Amazon. It may seem expensive, but you use very small amounts in your recipes (like this dressing) so it lasts forever.
Recommended Tools (affiliate links; no extra cost to you):
- Chef’s knife
- Cutting board
- Mixing bowls
- 12-inch skillet
- Splash guard for skillet
- Wooden salad servers
- Salad plates
- Small pitcher
Make sure you use gluten-free bacon; Applegate and Jones Dairy Farms make very good gluten-free bacon.
- 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/8 tsp xanthan gum
- 3 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 small red onion or large shallot, very thinly sliced
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup pecan halves
- 8 to 10 slices thick-cut bacon (gluten-free if needed)
- 4 large eggs, hard boiled and cooled
- 8 to 10 oz baby spinach
- 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved, optional
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Make the Dressing: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and xanthan gum. Whisk briskly until thoroughly blended. Add the oil and whisk again until emulsified. Add a little salt and pepper, taste and add more to taste if needed. Feel free to add more maple syrup if you want a sweeter dressing. Set aside.
- Prepare the Salad Ingredients: Peel and slice the onions and place in a small bowl. Cover with cool water, add several ice cubes and set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant and slightly darker, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- Transfer the cooked eggs to a bowl of ice water to cool. Peel and discard the shells. Pat dry and slice each egg lengthwise in half and then cut each half lengthwise into halves or thirds.
- While the eggs are cooling, cook the bacon. In a 12-inch skillet, cook bacon slices over medium heat until browned and crispy, turning occasionally with tongs. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. When cool, crumble into small pieces. Set aside.
- Place the spinach leaves in a bowl and fill with cold water. Gently move the spinach around in the water to loosen any dirt and grit that may be clinging to the leaves. Let the bowl sit for about 5 minutes. Using your hands with your fingers spread slightly apart, gently lift the spinach from the water and place on clean kitchen towels. Pat dry, pinch off the stems and discard them. Feel each leaf to make sure there is no residual grit.
- Assemble the Salad: Transfer the spinach leaves to a large salad bowl, tearing any large leaves into bite-sized pieces. Drain the onions, pat dry with paper towels and add to the spinach. Add in half the roasted pecans, half the crumbled bacon, sliced mushrooms, and tomatoes. Toss until all ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Drizzle the dressing over the top of the spinach, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper (if desired), and toss again until leaves and all ingredients are evenly coated with the dressing.
- Divide the salad onto four salad plates, and sprinkle the tops with remaining pecans and bacon. Arrange the egg wedges and tomatoes decoratively over the top of the salads and serve immediately. Pass additional dressing in a small pitcher.
Recipe found at www.theheritagecook.com
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 541Total Fat: 35gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 25gCholesterol: 216mgSodium: 1167mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 15gSugar: 9gProtein: 35g
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is calculated by online tools and is merely an estimate.
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