Thursday, February 23, 2012

Shrimp and Bacon Spinach Salad

When the weather is warm and the farmer's market is in full-swing I become completely obsessed with creating new main-course salads. Although they still make regular appearances in my diet, in the depths of winter my culinary obsessivness is typically redirected to warm dishes like soups, or more recently, veggie burgers. The unseasonably warm weather of late has rekindled my salad obsession earlier than usual, with my first new creation of the season landing on my dinner table on Valentine's Day. My husband asked if I wanted to venture out into the crowds, but I much prefer a nice dinner at home on the days when everyone is expected to go out, so I got to work in the kitchen. Although it may not seem like salad is elaborate enough meal for a romantic dinner, this salad is so full of intensely savory flavors and luxurious ingredients that it is more than appropriate for any special occasion. Shrimp, cooked gently in bacon fat, blends deliciously with creamy, tangy goat cheese and smoky, crispy bacon on a bed of spinach, corn, and red onion, creating the perfect balance of rich and fresh flavors. The generous helping of vegetables is the perfect foil to the decadent toppings, keeping the dish light and crisp, creating a contrast that allows all of the lush components to really shine. Add a glass of wine and piece of crusty bread with butter for the perfect meal to linger over with friends, family, or that special someone, be it Valentine's Day, or just an ordinary Tuesday night.

Shrimp and Bacon Spinach Salad
serves 2

4 ounces bacon
8 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 ounces baby spinach
1/2 cup corn
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 ounces goat cheese
Salad dressing, for serving

1. Preheat a pan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, turning frequently, until browned and crisp. Remove from pan and place on paper towels to drain.

 Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat from the pan. Add shrimp to pan and cook until shrimp is translucent, taking care not to overcook (shrimp will become tough and gummy). Remove from the pan, divide between the two salads, and serve promptly with your dressing of choice.

3. Meanwhile, divide spinach evenly between two large places, topping each with half of the corn, red onion, and goat cheese. When bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble into small pieces and sprinkle evenly over the two salads. Add the cooked shrimp, top with dressing of choice, and serve warm.

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