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Cooking Local Bacon and Eggs Salad

March 09, 2012

   

Welcome back to the kitchen. Friends, I am getting serious cabin fever. These early spring blue skies and the

almost-could-be-if-you-are-hardcore-t-shirt weather have me almost ready to hang up the skis for the season and

start planning out my garden plot.
    In fact, the first greenhouse greens are starting to

show up at local foods markets. Sure, we are a long way from the heart of harvest, but we are getting close to the

end of winter’s icy grasp. Fresh local foods can’t be far behind!
    So with this

surge of sunshine I find myself craving something lighter and fresher, something that won’t take a long time

to bake or simmer, and of course something delicious and creative.
    I recently had a health

care provider recommend to me that I eat a rainbow a day to take care of all my nutritional needs. In the

vegetable world, color is often dictated by vitamins, so this is a pretty safe approach to healthy eating.

/>    I’ve been trying to eat as many different vegetables as I can—in stir fries,

sautés, sauces… and a whole lot of salads. I know some of you will wrinkle up your noses at the

mention of salads. For some people, salads are just a bland afterthought that your parents would try to force you

to finish before dessert.
    But I absolutely love salads. Tons of fresh vegetables, a great

home made dressing, some exciting and unique toppings. Plus, you can really fill up on a huge dinner salad without

racking up huge calorie counts, especially if you go easy on dressing and stick to healthy fats like olive oil and

avocado.
    In fact, I never really got why most veggies take a bad rap, especially from

kids. I always loved my food colorful, fresh, and varied. But hey, you aren’t really a salad fan? You think

they aren’t filling enough or too fussy to bother with? Well, maybe I can come up with a salad that will

satisfy even the skeptic.
    It almost feels like cheating, but I’m going to

accomplish this with bacon, the master meat hand delivered from heaven to our supermarkets. Bacon, that crispy,

smoky, fatty food of the gods, converter of vegetarians, and breaker of kosher wills.
    I

know it seems almost too easy. Want to make something better? Add bacon! I can think of very, very few exceptions

to this rule.
    So sure, it is a pretty low hanging fruit to add bacon to a salad, certainly

nothing too revolutionary there. But what goes great with bacon? Why eggs of course! Now, we have done a spinach

salad in the past with bacon and an over easy or poached egg that uses a runny yolk as part of the dressing. But

today I am going to hard boil and slice these eggs, chef salad style.
    And you know what,

now that we are marching part way down this path, we could grill up some simple chicken breast, slice that, and

make our own version of a cobb salad. But instead of blue cheese dressing, I’m going to make up a sweet and

spicy homemade honey mustard dressing.
    I have to say, I kind of got attached to a silly

name for this salad, before I added the chicken. I call it the Bacon and Eggs Salad, because I think that sounds

kind of like the antithesis to a bland bowl of raw vegetables. The hot, crispy bacon and creamy eggs really do add

a lot of dynamics to this meal. The chicken adds even more protein, lots of colorful veggies gives us the rest of

our nutrients, some early local greens will give us a boost of extra freshness, and the home made dressing will

tie it all together.
    Let me opine for a moment on the virtues of home made salad dressing.

Even if you just pour really good olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar over your salad, you will beat the stuff out

of the bottle almost every time. Commercial dressings use cheaper ingredients and fillers, and they lack the oomph

of a dressing mixed up at home. There are just about a million variations, but just remember that (for

vinaigrettes at least)  you want to mix together all your non-oil based ingredients first, and that mustard

acts as a great emulsifier to help the oil stay mixed in.
    And as for an actual, formal

recipe for this Bacon and Eggs Chef Salad, well, this week I offer you more of a guideline or set of suggestions.

You see, I assume that each and every one of you can figure out how to wash and cop vegetables and arrange them in

a bowl. If you don’t have the basic idea of salad down, you might want to call your parents and see if that

old bedroom is still available for you, because the world is going to be a pretty scary and confusing place.

/>    OK, so I jest. The point is, get really creative with your own salad. There isn’t much

that won’t be good in there. Consider this recipe to be just a launching point. We’ll need:

/>-1 head red or green leaf lettuce, chopped, washed, and dried
-local early season greenhouse microgreens

and sprouts
-1 medium tomato, sliced
-1 cup red cabbage, very finely sliced
-1 or 2 green onions,

including white part, finely chopped
-1 carrot, sliced thin
-1/2 red, yellow, or orange pepper, seeds

removed and sliced thin
-1 stalk celery, sliced
-1 ripe avocado, pit removed, sliced thin
-1/2

organic apple, chopped into small pieces
-4 slices extra thick nitrite free bacon
-4 eggs, hard boiled,

peeled, and sliced
-2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, brushed with olive oil and salt and pepper to

taste

And for the Honey Mustard Dressing we’ll need:
-5 tablespoons real, all natural honey

-3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
-1 tablespoons apple cider or rice wine vinegar
-1 tablespoon fresh

squeezed lemon juice
-(optional) 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped

   

Some recipes omit the lemon juice and just add abit more vinegar, but I really like the bright hit of fresh citrus

in here. You’ll notice that this is a ridiculously simple recipe, but it truly does taste great. But go with

your tongue too, you may want more sweetness with extra honey, or just the opposite you might want more of the

mustard’s pungent kick. Whatever the case, just mix all the ingredients together really well and you are

good to go! I like to heat up the honey a bit in warm water before hand, because it makes it much easier to mix.

And there you have a great, easy home made dressing and dipping sauce. Now on to the bacon and egg salad!

/>    Start off by grilling the chicken breasts over a medium high heat for about 12 minutes, or

sautéing them in a pan for about the same time, flipping half way through. You can also bake them in a pan

in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes. When the chicken is cooked all the way through, set it aside to cool.

When it is cool enough to handle, slice it into roughly ½ inch pieces for the salad.

/>    Next, place the bacon pieces into a cast iron skillet over a medium heat and fry, flipping

every couple of minutes, until the pieces have browned nicely and are on their way to crispy. But don’t

forget that the bacon will continue to crisp up a bit once it is out of the pan cooling, so don’t burn it by

trying to get it too crispy in the pan. I ended up using 4 pieces of bacon for this because this fancy bacon is so

darn thick and each piece is huge. If you are using conventional bacon, you may want to go so far as to double the

amount. Can you ever really have too much bacon? When the slices are cooked through, let them drain a bit on a

plate lined with paper towels. Then slice the bacon up into ¼ inch pieces to top the salad.

/>    I like to arrange a dinner salad like this in big individual bowls, but you might want to

just make it all in one giant bowl and toss on the dressing. However you end up doing it, I like to start with the

lettuce, layer on the tomatoes, peppers, carrots and all the other great veggies, arrange the sliced chicken and

hard boiled eggs, then sprinkle on a glorious shower of crispy bacon bits. Take that, bland, healthy salad!

/>    So there you have it, a delicious meal that is colorful and quick. The sweet apples and honey

play off the tangy mustard and lemon, and it all goes so well with the avocado, chicken, and bacon. This dinner

salad is certainly healthier than meals made up of tons of carbs and processed foods. But it makes some great

compromises to be very tasty and even hit some comfort food notes. My hibernating self craves the bacon, by

emerging spring self craves the greens. It’s the best of both worlds!
    I’d love

to hear your favorite creative take on salad, or any recipes you’ve been working on. Send any questions or

comments to Isaac@kohoradio.com. Cooking local in the KOHO Kitchen, I’m Isaac Kaplan-Woolner.

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