This is the way we first served spinach salad at Ristorante Buonovia – and the way it was served in a lot of other Italian-American restaurants at the time. I love it just as much with sliced roasted or boiled beets in place of the mushrooms. If you don’t have bacon, or don’t want to use it, make a spinach-and-mushroom salad with an oil-and-vinegar dressing (using about ¼ cup olive oil to 3 tablespoons of vinegar). With a vegetable peeler, shave 1 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and toss it in at the end.
- ¾ pound baby spinach leaves or tender leaf spinach, cut into ½-inch strips
- 6 large white mushrooms, stem ends trimmed wiped clean and sliced thin (about 2 cups)
- 6 strips thick-sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1 ½-inch strips
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Wash spinach as follows: Fill a clean sink with cool water, dump in the greens, and swish them gently in the water. Wait a few minutes to give the dirt a chance to settle to the bottom of the sink, then lift the greens to a bowl with a wire skimmer or your hands, letting as much of the water as possible drain back into the sink. Refill the sink and repeat the swishing. Drain again. Remove as much water from the greens as possible by spinning them in a salad spinner or shaking as much water from them as possible. Store them in the refrigerator in a colander over a bowl, covered with a kitchen towel. If you don’t have a salad spinner, toss the greens gently in a large kitchen towel just before you dress them. Toss the spinach and mushrooms in a large serving bowl and eat them aside (or refrigerate for up to 6 hours).
Just before you’re ready to serve the salad, scatter the bacon over the bottom of the heavy, small skillet. Place the skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring once in a while, until the bacon just starts to get crisp, about 5 minutes. Don’t let the bacon get too crisp or too brown. While the bacon is cooking, season the salad well with salt and pepper. Pour the vinegar into the skillet and bring the liquid in the skillet to a quick boil. Immediately pour the hot dressing over the spinach and toss well. Drizzle the olive oil over the salad and toss to mix. Taste, adding salt, pepper, vinegar, or oil if you like. Serve immediately.