Warm Spinach Salad w/ Roasted Squash & Bacon Vinaigrette

I had an amazing warm (slightly wilted) spinach salad at Table and Main last week with roasted squash,  soft cow’s milk cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy (somewhat local – Thomasville, GA) and bacon vinaigrette. I am usually not a salad person, but this one blew me away; the complexities of the flavors and the varied textures easily exceeded my expectations, so why not try to re-create it at home with a few twists. For the record, I did not obtain this recipe from the restaurant; I simply determined the flavors from my experience and what was listed on the menu.

Serves 3 – 4

1 16 oz package of baby spinach, rinsed and dried

3 zucchini, chopped – 1 inch dice

3 yellow squash, chopped – 1 inch dice

1 small red onion

4 oz soft cow’s milk cheese

1 cup basic vinaigrette

2 pieces of thick cut bacon

1 smoked trotter

EVOO

S&P to taste

Start by making the vinaigrette so it can sit overnight and absorb more of the bacon flavor.  Trim about ¼ cup of the meat off of the trotter (pig’s foot for the layman) and combine it in a pan with 1 tbsp of EVOO and the bacon; cook until crispy and add to the premade vinaigrette.

Smoked trotter; usually found in the ham and sausage section at the grocery store

Smoked trotter; usually found in the ham and sausage section at the grocery store

 

Resting bacon vinaigrette - this is powerful stuff!

Resting bacon vinaigrette – this is powerful stuff!

Pre heat the oven to 350; sprinkle the squash and zucchini with S&P to taste and drizzle a little olive oil over the pieces; cook for 25 – 30 minutes, or until tender.  You can also find miniature squash that works really well, but I’ve only seen it at Fresh Market, and you will pay a premium for it, so I mainly stick with cutting it myself, unless you just really want to be fancy…

Diced squash

Diced squash

Next shave the red onion as thin as possible; a mandolin works best, but a sharp chef’s knife will also do the trick. Be sure and chop the shavings and only use a few small pieces, as it will over power the salad if added in excess.

Sliced onion - knife skills required.

Sliced onion – knife skills required.

Last but least, it’s time to prep the cheese. If you can find the cheese referenced above, it’s called Little Moo, definitely use that as it has a nice mild flavor. I ended up using the Green Hill from Sweet Grass Dairy since I didn’t order the Moo in time! It was a little richer and more buttery, but worked great as well. As you will see below, I warmed the cheese in the microwave for 5 seconds to loosen it up.

Green Hill cheese

Green Hill cheese

Before assembling the salad, warm the vinaigrette in a sauce pan for a few minutes, but do not burn it or let it get too hot, as you only want the spinach to wilt a little bit. Combine all the ingredients in individual bowls and top with one tbsp of the vinaigrette.

Not too shabby!

Not too shabby!

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