This is a summer salad worth turning the oven on for, highlighting sweet market cherries, made a whole meal with bacon and warm Brie. This recipe is inspired by a Cleveland local, Chef Katz of Fire Food and Drink on Shaker Square. Years ago when I was a student, my aunt and I would go to a cooking series at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens every Wednesday evening in the summer, and Chef Katz once demonstrated a warm Cherry-Sherry vinaigrette for a spinach salad. I've developed it to my liking here. Enjoy! —Emily | Cinnamon&Citrus
2 as a meal, 4 as a salad course
slices country white bread, each halved to make smaller crostini (could use rounds of your favorite baguette, as well)
slices thick cut bacon, cut into lardons
large shallot, minced
Leaves from 5 sprigs of thyme, about 1 rounded Tbs
red wine vinegar
sweet dark red cherries (I used Bing), stemmed, halved and pitted
wedge of Brie cheese, rind intact, whichever size you like!
head of red leaf lettuce, core removed and cut into bite sized pieces, washed and spun dry
Turn the oven to Broil. On a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle your bread with a bit of olive oil and toast in the oven about 5 minutes, until you have slightly browned crostini. Remove and turn the oven back to Bake at 350F.
In a large sautee pan with high sides, add a small drizzle of olive oil and add your bacon lardons to the cold pan. Then put the pan over medium heat and cook slowly, about 10-12 minutes, until the bacon fat is rendered and the bacon is cooked but still chewy.
Push the bacon lardons to one side of the pan and add the minced shallot and thyme leaves, plus a small pinch of salt (your bacon adds a lot of the salt for this dish) and a few generous grinds of black pepper. If you need a bit of extra fat in addition to your bacon renderings, you can add a drizzle of olive oil here. Cook until the shallot is just translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the red wine vinegar to the pan and scrape vigorously to deglaze the bacon brown bits from the pan. Add the sugar and stir to melt, about 1 minute. Then add your cherries and any accumulated juices to the pan, stir to combine with the bacon and shallots and just warm through, about 1 minute.
While your vinaigrette is cooking, place your Brie wedge on a foil lined baking sheet and bake 5-7 minutes in the 350F oven, until the middle is just starting to ooze out but the wedge still has structure. Remove and place in the middle of a large salad plate.
Toss the warm bacon cherry vinaigrette with the red leaf lettuce greens and arrange around the warm Brie in the salad bowl. Serve with crostini on the side (for making little Brie-lettuce toasties). Enjoy!