It’s springtime in Virginia, and this time of year belongs to salad greens. Sure, we get fired up about strawberries, and of course, you need to get your fill of asparagus before it’s gone. But you know who’s always there for you, from the beginning of the season to the end? Showing up in every shape, size, color, and variety?
It’s salad greens. Fresh, delicious, relentless salad greens. First came the hydroponic Bibb lettuce, and we thought, “Wonderful! Local salad greens!” Then came spinach - first of the season! Then came arugula. Then kale, always a world traveler - Red Russian, Tuscan, Siberian. Then pea shoots. Mizuna, tatsoi, bok choy. It’s a lot.
A person could be forgiven for feeling like Ron Swanson, sometimes.
But here’s the thing, and know that I don’t say this lightly: Ron Swanson is wrong.
What you need is not fewer salad greens; what you need is better salads. And to get better salads, you need a lineup of go-to salad dressings that are bright and flavorful enough to match the fresh flavors of spring. Enter: Brilliant Vinaigrette.
If our quarantined kitchen was a restaurant, Brilliant Vinaigrette would be the house dressing. The balance of sweet, tart, salty, and savory makes it play nicely with just about anything, and the hint of horseradish gives it character without making it too spicy. As written, this recipe yields about a pint of dressing. The recipe batches well, so feel free to make more or less depending on what you need, and leftover dressing stores great in your fridge.
It's a versatile dressing that will liven up even the simplest of salads, but it really shines when it's stacked up against something fatty and flavorful like hard-boiled eggs and bacon. Add something acidic (like pickles!), something tangy (fresh feta cheese!), and a little crunch (shallots!), and you've got dinner for two that's sure to put a dent in your stockpiled local greenery.
BPP House Salad with Brilliant Vinaigrette
Makes 2 massive, proof-salads-can-be-coma-inducing portions
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup Bloody Brilliant
½ cup olive oil
Salt, to taste
4 eggs (the oldest ones you have -- they're easier to peel than fresh ones)
1 cup pickled green beans (or whatever pickles you prefer)
1 bunch salad greens - a head of lettuce, a bag of mixed greens, whatever you have handy
4 thick-cut strips of bacon (or as much as your heart desires)
¼ cup feta cheese
Salt and black pepper
1) Make the dressing. Stir together the lemon juice, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and Bloody Brilliant in a bowl. Whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and balance with extra Brilliant. If no one is looking, you can also mix everything together in a blender and then just say you whisked it by hand... I won't tell.
2) Hard boil the eggs. Fill a saucepan about a quarter of the way with cold water. Place the eggs in a single layer at the bottom of the saucepan. Add more water so that the eggs are covered by at least an inch. Heat the pot on high heat, uncovered, and bring the water to a full rolling boil. Turn off the heat, keep the pan on the hot burner, cover, and let sit for 12 minutes. Strain the water from the pan and run cold water over the eggs to cool them quickly and stop them from cooking further. Peel the eggs under a bit of running water, and stick them in the fridge.
3) Prepare the rest of the ingredients. Slice the bacon short-ways into quarter-inch pieces and saute in a pan over medium heat until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set onto a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Peel and dice the shallot. Slice the green beans or other pickled vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Halve the hard-boiled eggs short-ways. Wash the salad greens and dry using a salad spinner or by blotting with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.
4) Put it all together. Toss the salad greens with 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette (or more, to taste) and then divide the greens between two bowls. Sprinkle with shallot, and top with pickles, bacon, and hard-boiled eggs. Crumble feta on top, and add a few cranks of coarse-ground black pepper.