Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Date Night Salad

It's been a long time since I was set up on a blind date. A long, long, LONG time.

But I remember being a bit tense about meeting this person for the first time. This was way before you could "Google" someone or search for them on Facebook or Twitter. It was back in the 1970s when we actually had to talk to one another on the phone. Awkwardly, as I recall.

Even though I'm not in the market for blind dates anymore, there is something to learn from the experience, I suppose. You need to get to know someone before you judge them. Is it too much of a stretch to say the same for salad ingredients? Yeah, probably, but here goes anyway.

I found a recipe for Warm Kale Salad with Bacon, Dates, Almonds, Crispy Shallots and Parmesan on Kristen's Iowa Girl Eats blog. How's that for a long, drawn-out recipe name? I wouldn't say I've used a lot of kale in my kitchen, but we do like it in some soup recipes. It definitely is in vogue among "foodie" writers.

This was the first time I'd tried it in a salad. It was fine, though I told Randy it had a texture like silage. (He wanted to know how I knew that. I revised my statement to say that it was what I imagined silage's mouthfeel to be.)

But I liked the salad, so I tried it with spinach the next time. Since it's a warm salad, the spinach doesn't hold up as well and wilts more. But we both preferred the more delicate green.

The original recipe also included some new-to-me ingredients. I searched all over Hutchinson for Medjool dates and Marcona almonds. I finally found the dates at Smith's Market, but I never found the almonds. The dates were yummy, but in my humble opinion, I'll substitute regular dates the next time - partly for cost and partly for convenience. I can buy regular dates in Stafford.

I also used the original recipe's shallots the first time. But I substituted sweet onion the second time because that's what is available at my local grocery store. I couldn't tell the difference, other than I sliced the sweet onion rather than keeping it in rounds.

So, I guess just like a blind date, don't be scared off by unfamiliar ingredients. It sometimes takes a getting-to-know you period.

Along with revising the recipe to fit us, I also shortened the recipe title. Yep, it's probably a stretch, too.
Date Night Salad
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, cut into thin rings (see recipe notes)
3 slices bacon
1 package spinach or 1 bunch kale (see recipe notes below)
5 pitted Medjool dates, chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 tbsp. shaved Parmesan cheese
1 recipe Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 tbsp. real maple syrup
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. extra virgin oil oil
2 tbsp. almond butter

For dressing: In small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. 

For salad: Make Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette and set aside. 

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots, then fry until golden brown, stirring frequently. Remove to paper-towel-lined plate to drain, then sprinkle with salt and set aside.

Turn heat down to medium and add bacon to the skillet. Cook until browned and crisp. Remove to paper towel to drain; set aside. Remove all but 2 teaspoons of the bacon grease from the skillet.

Add kale or spinach, dates and almonds; saute for 30 seconds. Add vinaigrette and then toss until just coated. Divide between two plates and top with reserved bacon, crispy shallots (or onion) and Parmesan cheese.

I served it as a main dish salad with salmon, but it would also be tasty with a grilled steak or grilled chicken breast.
Recipe notes:
  • The original recipe said to use 1 bunch kale, about 8 cups, removed from the ribs then torn into bite-sized pieces. I made the salad that way the first time. The second time I made it, I used spinach. We preferred the more delicate green.
  • The original recipe called for Marcona almonds. I knew I wouldn't find these specialty almonds at my local grocery store, but I couldn't even find them in the "big city" 40 miles away. So I substituted whole almonds one time and toasted slivered almonds the second. Both substitutions were good.
  • I can't purchase shallots at my local grocery store. I used them the first time after a visit to a larger grocery. But, the second time, I just thinly sliced sweet onion and substituted them. It was just as tasty.
  • I finally found Medjool dates at Smith's Market in Hutchinson. They were plump and chewy dates and were delicious, though pricey. Now that I've used them all, I'll just substitute regular pitted dates for future renditions of this recipe.
This shows the salad using kale. (I forgot to add the Parmesan cheese before serving.) That day, I served it with salmon and cheese grits. I also used extra Maple Balsamic Dressing as a sauce on the fish.

Today, I'm linked to Wake Up Wednesdays. Click on the link for more food recipes from across the country.

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