I love a good spinach salad and this one is a winner, with the smokiness of bacon, creamy richness of avocado, and warm mushrooms that wilt the salad just the tiniest bit.  It’s a great combination brought together by a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

In similar salads, the dressing is often made of the leftover bacon grease, but I like to use extra virgin olive oil instead.  Bacon grease can certainly taste great but it’s full of saturated fat, as opposed to olive oil which has healthy unsaturated fats and has fantastic flavor as well. 

Washed and bagged fresh greens are one of the things I love about Trader Joe’s, especially the great organic selection of baby spinach, arugula, and mixed greens.  It makes it so easy and convenient to make a salad.  In our backyard we have a vegetable garden and this time of year we have plenty of a Mesclun salad mix growing.  Last night we picked some and enjoyed the fresh grassy and peppery aroma of the greens.  However, there had been some rain earlier in the day and with this batch there was a lot of washing and cleaning and a bit of sorting involved.  While I love everything grown in my own garden, it made me appreciate the ready selection of bagged salads and greens at TJ’s.

The spinach here features bacon, avocado, and mushrooms against the backdrop of baby spinach and brought together with a great vinaigrette.  I like to use TJ’s fully cooked bacon because it’s fast and avoids the usual splatter of cooking bacon.  The bacon is a perfect complement to the ripe avocado chunks.  Right now it’s still avocado season here in California and good avocados are plentiful and flavorful.  We’re lucky to have a Fuerte avocado tree in our backyard which supplies us (and all our friends!) with beautiful avocados all winter.  The trick to ripening avocados is to let them ripen on the counter, never placing them in the fridge unless they are fully ripe.  When an avocado is soft to the touch and the flesh gives to gentle pressure, it’s ready.  To dice an avocado, start with cutting it in half and removing the pit.  With a sharp knife, make crosshatched cuts (see photo to right).  Then take a spoon and scoop the cubes of avocado out of the skin.  This method is the easiest way to make clean cubes of avocado (or even slices, cutting in one direction only).

Warm Spinach Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 (6 oz) bag baby spinach
  • 4 strips bacon (your choice of uncooked bacon or TJ’s Fully Cooked Uncured Bacon)
  • 1 (8 oz) container white mushrooms, sliced or 1 (10 oz) bag TJ’s Sliced White Mushrooms
  • 1 ripe avocado, diced or slicedDressing:
  • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey or agave nectar

Instructions

  1. If using cooked bacon, crisp in pan.  If using uncooked bacon, cook in pan and remove bacon.  Drain excess grease.
  2. In the same pan, sauté mushrooms for about 3-4 minutes until mushrooms are plump and before they are beginning to release water.  Don’t overcook them.
  3. Combine dressing ingredients, stirring or whisking well.  Toss with spinach.  Add warm mushrooms.
  4. Crumble bacon on top, add avocado, and toss gently.

10-15 minutes prep time
Serves 4