My husband and I love bacon-wrapped dates, but I admit they do not make a particularly balanced dinner on their own. Plus, I'm a strong believer in eating something green with dinner every night. So I came up with this warm spinach salad variation--the bacon and dates are there, with creamy goat cheese, and an orange and sherry vinegar-laced dressing that pulls it all together. —atxdori
For the salad
good curly spinach leaves, cleaned and dried
fresh goat cheese
medjool dates, pits removed and roughly chopped
For the dressing
rendered bacon fat
freshly-squeezed orange juice (from 1/2 of an orange)
Cut the bacon into bite-size pieces or lardons and fry in a heavy-bottomed small pan. When crispy, remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Turn off heat but reserve 2 tablespoons of rendered fat in the pan.
In a small bowl, mix together sherry vinegar, mustard, honey, orange juice and orange zest.
Over medium-low heat, add olive oil to the pan with the bacon fat. Re-warm briefly, then add vinegar and orange mixture to the pan.
Simmer dressing gently while whisking, until dressing is warm, slightly thickened and emulsified. Salt and pepper to taste.
In a large bowl, pour dressing over spinach and toss. It should wilt only slightly if you have good hearty spinach. The bagged stuff tends to wilt too much.
Arrange spinach on plates. Top with big crumbles of fresh goat cheese, crispy bacon, chopped dates and a few grinds of pepper.