This last month has been cuh-razy, and I’m so glad to see June just around the corner. I started May by watching a friend’s three-month old for an entire week, and by some miracle, only had a handful of moments in which both babies were crying while I inwardly panicked a little.
Since resigning from teaching kindergarten ESL students last year, I’ve picked up some part time work at General Mills doing some corporate training, which yes, is the exact opposite of teaching five-year-olds. Right now, it’s Intern Season at GM, so I’ve been extra busy with that training the past few weeks.
To top it all off, in the middle of the month, Owen and I took our little spring break trip to see my family, which, while relaxing, still felt like an ordeal. On our flight home, I sat next to this girl in her twenties, who was holding both a cup of coffee and a book, and I found myself envying all the things she could hold. Seriously, my triceps were sore the next day from trying to contain a wiggly one-year-old in a single square foot of space for an hour.
And then last week, I spent every spare minute planning a birthday bash for Owen, which we had this past Saturday. 16 adults, 7 kids, and 2 newborns makes for a number of people mathematically impossible to fit in our house, but we happily did our best anyway, and I was so thankful for the full sound of voices singing happy birthday to our little guy.
To top it all off, our anniversary was yesterday. Six years. Six! What’s funny about that is that last year, on our anniversary, two days before Owen’s arrival, Eric was sick. Which is weird, because he has the immune system of a horse. And this year, I was sick and spent the day, wrapped in the same red blanket, feeling nauseous and fevery. Needless to say, we celebrated by my taking 3.5-hours-worth of naps yesterday, and Eric and Owen pretty much spending the day together. We decided to have a do-over anniversary this next weekend; we didn’t even do our traditional exchange of cards yesterday so we wouldn’t “dilute” our mulligan anniversary.
This past month, we’ve had a lot of turkey sandwiches for dinner. And a lot of take-out. But this salad. This salad has been our busy-month redemption. It classes up any meal, and what’s more, it makes for its own meal if you only split it between two people.
Last month, Eric and I took my mom to our favorite pizza place, and we ordered their seasonal salad: a spinach base, with thinly shaved onions, creamy goat cheese chunks, and a bacon vinaigrette. It was as I was polishing off my last few forkfuls of this dreamy salad that I knew I had to come home and recreate it, ten times over in the next month. So I did some research, and a lot of serendipitous testing, and what you have here is the result.
Bacon, fried crispy, then crumbled. Some of its grease used to barely saute minced shallots and fresh thyme, plus red wine vinegar, sugar, and dijon mustard. All of this mixed together, and lovingly poured over fresh spring spinach greens, goat cheese, and thinly sliced onions…plus those perfectly salty, crunchy bacon crumbles? You know that you can’t think of anything else you want more for dinner tonight, busy day or not.
(recipe by Carpé Season) (yields 4 side salads or 2 "salad-for-dinner" salads)
This easy bacon vinaigrette packs a lot of flavor with pickled shallot, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, and fresh thyme. It makes the perfect topping for a spinach salad with shaved onions and crumbled goat cheese.
4 slices bacon, cut in half
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 shallot, minced, OR 1/4 c. onion, minced
1 tsp. fresh thyme*
heaping 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
8 big handfuls spinach
1/4 c. thinly sliced onions - about 8 slices per salad
4-6 oz. goat cheese log, crumbled
*I hemmed and hawed about including fresh thyme because it's in season for such a short time. But I couldn't get over how much flavor it gave this vinaigrette. So...it's optional but strongly recommended.
Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add halved bacon (more of it gets crispy when halved) and fry over medium heat until crispy. It will crisp up a bit after you remove it from the pan, so remove it before it starts looking withered. Once browned, remove from pan and place on a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Once cool, crumble.
As the bacon cooks, mix together the vinegar and sugar. Throw in your minced shallot (or 1/4 c. minced onion) to let the vinegar mixture mellow out the shallot/onions a bit. You can also assemble your salad at this point - about 2 handfuls of spinach, 8 thin slices of onion, and 2-3 oz. of goat cheese crumbles per salad (if making 4 servings).
After your bacon has been removed from the pan, pour off all but about 2 tbsp. of bacon grease. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp. of bacon grease over medium-low heat. Once hot, add the fresh thyme and the onions/shallot that have been soaking in vinegar (I just used a slotted spoon to remove mine). Sauté the minced onions and thyme for just a minute or so, then add the vinegar mixture and dijon mustard. Whisk until combined and thickened slightly - about 1 minute.
Pour immediately over your assembled spinach salads and top with your bacon crumbles.