"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." (Mark Twain) There have been times in my life when some have said I don't look my age, usually a double-edged sword perception. And every once in a while someone will say I don't act my age which, let's just say, is more like a taking the sword experience. All of this obsession with age has resurfaced recently. It has less to do with the fact that I have a significant birthday looming ahead but rather more to do with my joining a 5K training group. Without knowing the ages of everyone in the group it would be safe to say I may be as old as or (gasp) older than their mothers. While it is not physically possible (at least for me) to keep up with those decades younger than I am, it hasn't stopped me from at least wanting to try to (at least for the first mile). I can't help but wonder if I had never abandoned running all those years (why are bad decisions so easy to see in retrospect?) if I would be experiencing a little less age-related angst. When I hear some say 'age is just a number', I think 'so is the 5k finishing time'. Considering this is where my head is currently at, you could probably guess there is no diminished angst.
With all of those head games taking up valuable space along with lamenting about being a much 'slower' runner, a memory of a story told to me by a friend years ago resurfaced. When her 'tall for his age' son was three-ish, most 'strangers' presumed he was five or even six-ish. Considering there is a world of difference in the language and social-emotional abilities of a three and that of a six year old, a brilliant three year old who physically resembles a six year old, well you can only imagine what 'strangers' thought when he was just acting his real age. And the only person feeling a little angst in those moments would have been none other than the mother of the three year old. If there were ever times in life where wearing (literally) one's age on your sleeve seems like a good idea, I can now think of two of them. Slow would most likely never be anyone's first or even second passing thoughts. Maybe the time has come for me to be 'Twain'-washed in my thinking about age.
With the impending return of spring-like weather (like my running it has been slow to arrive), my appetite for various foods has always been influenced by the change of seasons. While we are months away from having 'real' tomatoes available in the farmer's markets and grocery stores, I have been craving salads made with fresh vegetables a little more than usual lately. Like the seasons, the salads I like to make and eat also change. The Spinach Bacon Salad with Russian Dressing can certainly be made year round, but the addition of spring flowers turns into a salad you get to eat twice. First with your eyes, second with your taste buds. If there was ever a reason to create a garden of edible flowers, this salad would be one, but not the only one of them.
Baby spinach is more tender, sweeter, and flavorful than the grown version. Additionally, spinach happens to have a significantly higher nutritional value than lettuces.
Baby bellas or white button mushrooms sliced thinly, what is not to love?
Pea shoots are beginning to show up in more places than in Asian cuisine. A perfect spring like vegetable, they hold the promise of the spring peas to come.
To combat the (un)healthiness of bacon held by some, adding hard boiled eggs to a salad might help to neutralize it. If a reason was ever needed to continue the Easter tradition of making colored eggs, the Spinach Bacon Salad with Russian Dressing would be one of them. However, to limit the making of this salad or hard boiled eggs as pre or post- Easter holiday fare would be a shame, a terrible shame.
Allegedly Russian dressing was developed in the early 1900's in Nashua, New Hampshire, and not in Russia. Early versions of the dressing were said to have contained caviar, thus slightly contributing to its' name. This version of the dressing uses canola (or vegetable) oil instead of mayonnaise.
The Spinach Bacon Salad with Russian Dressing can be served as a side dish although it is substantial enough to be served as the main course. However you decide to serve it, serve the dressing on the side.
If the flavors, textures, and tastes in the Spinach Bacon Salad with Russian Dressing aren't enough to inspire you to want to make it, its' presentation at the table just might be what does. Just know it is really, really good. A perfect salad to welcome spring, to serve year round. And for those you who really believe age or a number really doesn't matter, when your friends and family give this salad a five star rating, let me know if you make a paradigm shift in your thinking.
Spinach Bacon Salad with Russian Dressing (salad and dressing inspired by a Julia Baker recipe)
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 large shallot grated or finely minced
6-8 hard boiled eggs, cut in half
12 ounces applewood smoked bacon, cooked crispy, cut into lardons (1/2 in slices)
1 cup pea shoots
7-8 baby bella mushrooms, sliced thin
7-8 cups baby spinach
salt and pepper
Optional: Edible Flowers (e.g., pansies, nasturtiums)
1. Combine the oil, brown sugar, ketchup, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and shallot in a medium sized bowl. Whisk until all ingredients are fully combined and dressing is smooth and slightly thickened. Transfer to a sauce boat or small pitcher. Refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Using a large platter, layer spinach, arrange hard boiled eggs around edges of platter, scatter mushrooms and bacon over top of spinach, finish with arranging pea shoots down center of the salad. Optional: Scatter edible flowers over the salad.
3. Serve salad with dressing on the side.