If it’s early August, Austinites are getting excited about Hatch chiles.
The New Mexican chile peppers have been a hit in Central Texas ever since Central Market started bringing them here in the mid-1990s. Whole Foods followed, and now both stores — as well as other grocery retailers, including Wheatsville and Central Market’s parent company, H-E-B — sell literal tons of Hatch peppers and Hatch-flavored foods during this time of year.
They’ve released this month’s Hatch cooking classes, which start on Wednesday with a steakhouse-themed class at 6:30 p.m. On Thursday at 6:30 p.m., you can sign up to learn how to make Hatch tamales, and on Saturday night, the cooking staff will teach a Hatch seafood session starting at 6:30 p.m.
If we ever needed cold summer soups, it’s in August, when even the grass and trees are parched. The cold soup that probably comes to mind is gazapacho, the Spanish soup frequently made with tomatoes.
You can find plenty of gazpacho without tomatoes — often called “white gazpacho” and made with cucumbers, almonds and sometimes green grapes — but for a creamy pink gazpacho, check out this recipe from Adam Fleischman, founder of Umami Burger, whose new book is all about that savory “fifth taste.”
To increase the amount of umami in this recipe, Fleischman roasts the tomatoes and adds sherry vinegar when blending the ingredients. Like soy sauce, sherry vinegar is a quick way to add depth of flavor to a dish, and you’ll want to adjust the quantity according to your own tastes. He recommends letting the soup chill overnight to develop even more complexities, but I love the taste and texture of freshly made gazpacho and would serve it after letting it chill for about 30 minutes in the fridge.
The tomatoes are blended with the other vegetables to make a smooth, creamy, pink gazpacho. Tomatoes have the most umami flavor when they’re ripe, and are at their peak umami right off the vine. If you can find tomatoes on the vine at your farmers’ market or grocer, grab a bunch and put them to good use here. I roast the tomatoes for a more complex flavor; it’s an extra step, but worth it. The sherry vinegar is an umami sidekick that will amplify the umami.
— Adam Fleischman
2 pounds very ripe tomatoes
3 slices pain de mie, country loaf or other bread, crusts removed
1/2 medium onion, peeled
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 green bell pepper, cored and seeded
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar
Pimentón (smoked paprika) or red pepper flakes, for garnish
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat the tomatoes on all sides, then roast until their skins start to blister and they start to collapse a little bit, about 30 minutes. Don’t overcook and dry out the tomatoes; you want some of their liquid in the gazpacho, too. Peel the skins off the tomatoes and discard. Remove the seeds, then chop the tomatoes coarsely. Place the tomatoes in a blender and set aside while you prep everything else.
Place the bread slices in a bowl or casserole dish and pour in just enough sherry vinegar to soak the bread. Meanwhile, dice the onion, cucumber, garlic cloves and bell pepper. If you prefer a chunkier soup, reserve half of the diced veggies, refrigerate, and mix in at the very end before serving. Otherwise put all of the veggies in the blender with the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, then add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of sherry vinegar, the sugar and a big splash of water to thin it out.
Blend everything for a few seconds, then blend in the bread, in batches if everything doesn’t fit in one go. Add more water if the gazpacho is too thick for your liking, or another tablespoon of olive oil if the soup isn’t emulsifying and coming together.
Cover and chill the gazpacho in the fridge overnight. The next day, taste and readjust the seasonings. If you reserved half of the diced veggies, add them in now. Spoon into bowls and garnish with a pinch of the pimentón or red pepper flakes. Serves 4.
Willis first had this tart treat at Crook’s Corner, a Chapel Hill, N.C., restaurant that serves a traditional lemon icebox pie baked in a saltine crust. In some places throughout the South, saltine crackers are commonly used instead of graham crackers for icebox pies, including key lime pie, but it wasn’t an ingredient I’d seen used that way until I saw this recipe in Willis’ cookbook.
I made the pie for a birthday party last weekend, and it was absolutely delightful. The crackers gave a surprisingly light and crunchy texture to the crust, and it wasn’t too savory, especially for this filling that is so sweet, even the whipped cream doesn’t need any extra sugar.
Lemon Icebox Tart with Saline Cracker Crust
Just like graham crackers, saltine crackers can be used for a nice pie crust, but you have to crumble them finely enough to stick together when you add the butter — but not so fine that the crust loses all the cracker texture. This pie doesn’t have as much filling as you might be expecting from a lemon icebox pie, but it is extra sweet and tart, so you need the whipped cream layer on the top to balance it. If you place the whipped cream on the pie when it’s still warm, it will melt, so follow her instructions on cooling the pie first.
— Addie Broyles
1 1/2 sleeves saltine crackers (about 68 crackers)
8 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Zest and juice of three lemons (About 1/2 cup juice)
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
In a large plastic zip-top bag, use a rolling pin or skillet to crush the saltine crackers into small, fine pieces, but not so much that it becomes powder. (You can crush them directly in the package or in a bowl with your fingers.) Place the cracker crumbs into a large bowl and mix in the melted butter and sugar.
Press the saltine mixture into a pie pan, using your fingers to press the mixture into the sides and a measuring cup to press the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Chill for 15 minutes.
Heat oven to 350 degrees while the crust is chilling, and then bake it for 15 minutes. While the crust is baking, mix together the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk and lemon zest and juice. Whisk carefully so that you don’t introduce air bubbles into the filling.
Remove the crust from the oven, and pour the filling mixture into the hot crust. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes to set the filling.
Place the pie on a wire rack and let it cool to the touch. Once completely cool, refrigerate for an hour.
When ready to finish the pie, place the chilled cream in a large bowl and whisk vigorously until the cream holds soft peaks. Spread the whipped cream on the pie. Use a chef’s knife to cut the slices of pie, and wipe the knife before each cut to keep the slices clean. Keeps for two days in the fridge. Serves 8 to 10.
Of all the breakthroughs I’ve had in the Instant Pot this summer, the best might be bonding over the device with my mom.
She’s been getting creative with that 6-quarter multicooker I gave her a few weeks ago, cooking lots of beans dishes for her and my dad and swapping recipes with her neighbors, both of whom had Instant Pots in their kitchens, but hadn’t yet used them.
Now, all three of them are pressure cooking meat, rice, legumes and more in their multicookers, and I couldn’t be happier to hear reports about their progress over the phone.
One of the dishes I told my mom you could make in an multicooker was shrimp scampi. She was as excited as I was to learn that you could cook the spaghetti in the white wine butter garlic sauce under pressure. You do have to get the amount of liquid right, which I’ve explained in the note below. This version is a hybrid of two recipes from “Dinner in an Instant” by Melissa Clark and “The Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook” by Laurel Randolph.
Shrimp Scampi With White Wine
In this version of shrimp scampi, a convergence of two similar recipes from Melissa Clark and Laurel Randolph, the shrimp are cooked in garlic and white wine for just 1 minute under pressure; then you’ll remove them from the pot but leave the liquid. It’s a little tricky to strain the liquid into a measuring cup to add just enough water to have 1 1/2 cups, but it’s worth the effort when you taste thin spaghetti cooked under pressure in that savory sauce. This dish comes together quickly, and the pasta absorbs all that flavor after just a few minutes in the multicooker.
Don’t forget to use quick or manual release when letting the steam out of the multicooker in this recipe. Unlike natural release, which allows the steam to slowly let out over 10 or 15 minutes, quick release requires a hand towel or a long utensil to flip the vent open and release the steam in a steady (sometimes loud and spattering) burst.
— Addie Broyles
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced fennel (optional)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine or stock
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 pounds shrimp, shelled and deveined
8 ounces thin spaghetti, broken in half
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Using the saute function, melt the butter and oil in the pressure cooker. Stir in the fennel, if using, and garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine or stock, salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper and shrimp. Select manual and cook at high pressure for 1 minute. Use a quick release once the shrimp have finished cooking and remove the shrimp from the pot with a slotted spoon. Reserve.
Pour the remaining liquid in a large measuring cup. Add enough water so that the total quantity is 1 1/2 cups. Return the liquid to the pot and add the pasta, a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Stir the pasta to separate the pieces and coat them with liquid.
Place the lid on the pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 6 minutes. Release the pressure manually. Add the shrimp back to the pasta and stir. Season to taste. Serves 4.
We kicked off our “What’s for Dinner Tonight?” recipe series earlier this summer with family friendly breadsticks that pair with any meal.
But a family cannot live on breadsticks alone. Here’s a lemon rosemary chicken and rice dish that would go well with those breadsticks or by itself.
Not in the mood for asparagus? Leave it out or use broccoli or green beans. To trim asparagus, bend the spear to find where the woody end begins. The asparagus will snap into two pieces, dividing the tender asparagus from the tougher root. “Juicy chicken, nutty jasmine rice and crisp-tender asparagus are cooked in a rosemary lemon sauce that will blow your mind,” author Donna Elick writes in “The Simple Kitchen.”
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup jasmine rice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 cups chicken stock
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
In a 10-inch skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Once you can feel the heat when you hold your hand 6 inches above the skillet, add the chicken and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Cook until the chicken is browned on the outside, stirring occasionally, 7 to 10 minutes. We are going to cook it some more, so it’s OK if it is not cooked through yet.
Add the rice, rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, chicken stock and lemon juice. Stir to combine, cover and bring everything to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 8 minutes, and then stir and add the asparagus.
Cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender, 5 to 7 minutes longer. Sprinkle with the lemon zest. Serves 6.
Pad thai has become a dish as universal as sesame chicken in many parts of the United States, but it’s not a dish that many people make from scratch at home.
This recipe is from Caroline Hwang’s “Stir-Fry: Over 70 Delicious One-Wok Meals” (Hardie Grant Books, $19.99), which shows you how to make the base sauces for more than 70 stir-fry dishes, including Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Thai favorites that may or may not already be on your radar.
This recipe from Hwang includes making your own nuoc cham base sauce, the salty-sweet dipping sauce that is often served with spring rolls or vermicelli. This pad thai recipe only uses some of the sauce, so you’ll have extra for other uses. If you don’t want to make it from scratch, you can buy it at grocery stores and international markets.
Chicken Pad Thai
You can find tamarind paste in many large grocery stores or some smaller international markets. The recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of the nuoc cham sauce.
— Addie Broyles
For the nuoc cham base sauce:
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup sugar
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
For pad thai:
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
4 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons nuoc cham base sauce
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into slices
1/2 small onion, sliced
6 ounces broccoli, cut into small florets
2 eggs, beaten
12 ounces cooked, skinny rice noodles (from 5 ounces uncooked)
To make the nuoc cham sauce: Combine all the ingredients together and store in a jar or container. Keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
To make the pad thai: Combine the tamarind, sugar, nuoc cham and 1/4 cup of water and set aside.
Heat half the oil in a wok over high heat, add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion and broccoli and cook for 5 minutes until the broccoli is tender. Set aside. Add the remaining oil and eggs and swirl in the wok. When the eggs are no longer wet, add the noodles and sauce. Stir to combine. Add the chicken and vegetables and stir-fry until well combined. Serves 2.
You’re either on Team Instant Pot or you’ve thought about it.
In months of thinking and talking about multicookers, I’ve realized that if you don’t already have one, you have an opinion about it. Earlier this week, I published my “Confessions of an Instant Pot skeptic-turned-convert,” and with that story, I compiled 12 tips to get you started.
If you’re on the fence about getting one, hopefully these stories will help you decide if it’s right for you. If you already have one, maybe you’ll learn something you didn’t know. If you’re already an Instant Pot pro, I’d love to hear your tips and insight to help me get to know the 8-in-1 appliance sitting on my kitchen counter. Shoot me an email at email@example.com if you have favorite IP recipes and insights to share.
Check out from the library (or buy or borrow from a friend) two or three multicooker cookbooks. With several books to consult, you can compare recipes for common dishes – risotto, ribs, beans, for instance – to find out the different ratios, cooking times and techniques the various authors use. Melissa Clark’s “Dinner in an Instant” and America’s Test Kitchen’s “Multicooker Perfection” are the most “foodie” of the multicooker books I used, but Laurel Randolph’s books “The Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook” and “The Instant Pot No-Pressure Cookbook” feature the easiest and most interesting everyday recipes.
Start off using the saute and manual functions. Many multicookers have a bevy of buttons — sometimes, too many, in fact. Mine has more than half a dozen presets for cake, eggs, porridge, rice, stew and meat, but none for beans. I haven’t used the dish-specific functions enough to know if they work better than using the manual function to program a specific cooking time, which is what most recipes call for. I have used the “steam” button to steam vegetables — broccoli steams in the time it takes for the pressure cooker to come up to temperature — but the result would be similar if you used the manual button.
Pressure cooking is for dishes that are usually boiled, braised, stewed or steamed, and you do generally need to follow a recipe, but that doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvisation, according to Randolph. “You can’t just throw random things in and adjust as you go, like you can on the stovetop,” she writes in “The Instant Pot No-Pressure Cookbook,” “but as you progress in your pressure cooking journey, you’ll learn what does and doesn’t work and come up with plenty of your own signature dishes.”
Natural and quick release are the two options for releasing steam in the Instant Pot. Natural release is when you leave the valve on “sealed” and let the pressure naturally release from the pot, usually in about 10 and 15 minutes. Many recipes call for quick release, when you’ll manually turn the valve to release the steam quickly. Use a hand towel or oven mitt when touching the valve so the hot steam doesn’t burn your hand.
If you don’t have a multicooker but are curious about them, ask to borrow a friend’s or hang out with them while they use it, and if you decide to buy one, don’t feel obligated to buy the official Instant Pot. The multicookers from the brand that launched this craze — and whose name has become a genericized term, like Kleenex or Q-tips — have what’s called a lower power availability, the measure that America’s Test Kitchen uses in its multicooker ranking. This could be why many of my first dishes took longer to finish than the recipes estimated. Compared to other brands, America’s Test Kitchen also noted that the Instant Pot struggled to maintain consistent heat while on the slow cooker function.
Don’t secure the lid on a multicooker unless you have at least a cup of water in the pot, and don’t use the lid when you’re using the saute function.
Don’t pressure cook milk or cheese, which can foam and scorch. Add those to the dish after you’ve finished cooking it under pressure. The same is true with roux and other thickeners, which can be added after the soup or stew has cooked under pressure.
You can double or halve recipes, often without adjusting the cooking time, but make sure there’s at least a cup of liquid, and don’t fill the pressure cooker more than halfway, which can lead to a clogged pressure release valve.
Cut large pork and beef roasts into quarters to help them cook faster. To make pulled pork, I left a 4-pound pork butt whole, which took more than 50 minutes to cook under pressure, which is still less than the 2 or 3 hours it would have taken in an oven but not as fast as I’d hoped.
Many multicookers, including the basic Instant Pot models, continue to keep the contents of the pot warm even after the pressure cooking has finished. If you don’t want any more heat on the food, especially in the case of polenta, quinoa or other grains, make sure to use the “cancel” button after the pressure cooker timer has beeped to turn it off.
Buy extra food storage containers. In the first few weeks of using the Instant Pot, I had more leftovers than I could eat, so I bought extra plastic containers to give the food away and store it in the freezer.
Multicooker not pressurizing correctly? Check the silicone gasket ring that fits inside the lid. If the flexible ring is loose, the cooker won’t heat properly.
For many cooks who are well-established in their cooking routines and averse to any appliance with more than a few buttons, it might take a while to warm up to the idea that you can cook everything from cakes to hard-cooked eggs in a single electric countertop appliance.
In June, I finally got over my multicooker misgivings. I’d been an Instant Pot skeptic for years, in part because I genuinely had questions about how it functioned and whether it would “work” for how my family eats. But I knew I needed to throw myself into the Instant Pot world to understand why it’s so popular and see if it’s an appliance that I’d want in my own kitchen.
But first, I wanted to share some really great advice I got just before I unboxed the appliance. After I posted a series of questions on my blog, a reader (and Instant Pot fan) Thomas Embleton took the time to answer via email and his answers helped me get over my initial fears that I would accidentally blow up the appliance or that it was simply overhyped.
With a month of multicooker cooking under my belt, I can concur with his answers and have added thoughts, where relevant.
I feel overwhelmed by just how new this cooking device feels. Is that normal?
Yes, I’ve had mine for years, upgraded as better models came out and still am overwhelmed by what it can do. If you buy into the accessories, you can really expand your cooking. I would suggest a trivet that also allows you to steam eggs (soft to hard, depending on time), a tempered glass lid for sautéing, a second inner pot for mixed meals (also called pot-in-pot cooking) and a veggie steamer basket with handles.
Will the steam from the pressure cooker heat up my kitchen, thus defeating the purpose of not turning on my oven?
I just heated up my IP to make a brown rice/quinoa recipe and could not feel any heat coming from the top as it came up to pressure. Once at pressure, the lid is sealed and no water (or heat) will escape. A benefit of an IP is you can reduce the amount of water in most recipes because it does not boil/steam away. (AB: I also learned that as long as you have at least a cup of water in the Instant Pot, you’ll have enough liquid to steam or cook something, and that the multicookers have several levels of built-in safety mechanisms to prevent any explosions or overheating inside the pot.)
Which of the approximately 12,000 Facebook groups should I join?
How many dishes am I going to have to make until I feel someone proficient on it?
I have some favorite dishes I have been modifying 10 to 15 times as I get it closer to my perfection. I would suggest hosting potluck dinners to try them out on others. I worked out a recipe to make bean soup for my mother (for a good source of nutrients), and it took about 3 to 4 tries to get it right.
I make my brown rice/quinoa dish, especially for our 3-year old granddaughter. I wrote 90 percent of this email while this week’s batch was cooking, and it finished in 14 minutes. It is now resting for 15 minutes, then it will be ready.
What happens if I try to cook without an official Instant Pot recipe?
I haven’t used the branded cookbook since Day 2, relying on other recipes and trial/error.
What if all these Instant Pot cookbook recipes don’t really look that appealing?
Don’t cook veggies in the IP unless making soup or stews. (AB: I have found corn, broccoli, potatoes and green beans an exception to this.)
Am I really going to cook more beans if I can cook them faster?
I love crumbles and crisps so much that I don’t make a distinction between them — some say a crumble is all butter and flour and a crisp has oats — but I make them all the time, even in the middle of summer.
My latest trick is to take all the leftover fruit in the house, which might include a mushy plum, a mealy nectarine and the last 1/2 cup of blueberries or strawberries in the bottom of the plastic container, and throw them in a bowl with a little sugar. Then I go to my freezer and pull out the bag of crumble topping that I keep in there and sprinkle as much or as little as I want on top. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, and dessert is ready to serve.
If you keep this crumble topping in your freezer, you, too, will only be minutes away from a crowd-pleasing dessert. Yes, you’ll have to turn on your oven, but it’s worth it, I promise. Use a loaf pan or other smaller baking vessel if you don’t have that much fruit. The process of putting the dessert together is the same, but the baking time will be a little shorter with a smaller pan.
All-Purpose Crumble Topping
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cups chopped pecans or other nut (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch salt
Cream butter and sugar together in a bowl, using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer. Stir in flour, oats, nuts (if using), cinnamon and pinch of salt. Store in a zip-top plastic bag in the freezer until ready to use. This is enough crumble for one large baked dessert or several smaller ones.
Though they are native Texans, my kids haven’t quite taken to cornbread. They usually think it’s too sweet (even if there’s very little sugar) or too crumbly. But, that just means more cornbread for me.
Here is English’s go-to cornbread recipes, as well as a wilted spinach salad that uses cornbread croutons and a bacon vinaigrette. It’s an ideal dish for people who love both greens and cornbread, but skip the homemade croutons if you don’t feel like baking.
First, some history about cornbread: Versions of hot, corn-based breads were being baked on the continent well before European colonists arrived. “Suppone” and “pone” are but two names that Native Americans gave to their cornbreads, which consisted of ground cornmeal and liquid, typically water. Since then, additional ingredients have been introduced to lighten and leaven the bread, including fats (butter, bacon grease, vegetable oils), eggs, milk or buttermilk, and baking soda and baking powder.
I am deeply picky about cornbread. According to my standards, a properly prepared pan should possess no added sugar, have a moist interior and crumby exterior, and be simultaneously smoky, salty, and naturally sweet. It needs to be baked with bacon drippings and butter, and contain no trace of processed vegetable oils. While I welcome white or yellow cornmeal equally, so long as my other criteria are met, I do tend to gravitate toward yellow cornbread, as that is the kind I grew up eating.
Essentially, what I’m describing is my grandmother’s cornbread, the kind she baked regularly, having learned from her own mother, my Mamaw. I would rather have no cornbread at all than one that is too sweet, or baked with vegetable oil, or so light and fluffy and devoid of exterior crunch that it might as well be a slice of cake. I tell you, when it comes to cornbread, I am Goldilocks. The side eye I give most cornbread would make a grown man cry. What I offer here is a version my ancestors would applaud.
— Ashley English
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
1 1/4 cup yellow medium-grind cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
Turn the oven to 400 degrees. Place the butter and bacon grease in a 9-inch cast iron skillet or pie pan. Put the pan in the oven, allowing the fats to melt and the pan to heat while you prepare the batter.
Sift together the cornmeal, flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
Whisk together the buttermilk and eggs in a large bowl. Remove the heated pan from the oven, and carefully pour all but several teaspoons of the melted fat into the bowl. Whisk until fully combined.
Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet, combining just until the batter is free of lumps.
Pour the batter into the heated pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the sides of the cornbread begin to pull away from the edges of the pan. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Serves 6 to 8.
Kilt Spinach Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette & Cornbread Croutons
Croutons are a great way to use up leftover cornbread — you could also crumble it to use as a crust for fish or instead of breadcrumbs in meatballs — and they add a wonderful texture to this kilt spinach salad, which gets its name from the Southern Appalachian term for wilted. The addition of the hot fat on the spinach wilts it slightly, so let the dressing cool longer if you want the spinach to retain its fresh texture.
— Addie Broyles
For the croutons:
1 batch cornbread, cut into bite-size cubes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
For the spinach:
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
3 pieces bacon, cooked until lightly crisped and crumbled
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
10 ounces fresh spinach leaves
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the cornbread cubes evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet, with some space in between each cube.
Drizzle the cornbread with the olive oil, and then sprinkle evenly with the salt. Toss gently to coat and then spread out the cubes again on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, gently flip the cubes, and bake for 8 minutes longer until crispy and golden. Remove the pan from the oven and set the croutons aside to cool while you prepare the spinach.
Warm the olive oil over low heat in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, and then remove the garlic from the pan.
Stir in the crumbled bacon, brown sugar, salt and several grinds of pepper until fully incorporated, then turn off the heat. Let the mixture sit for 2 to 3 minutes and then carefully (it may splatter a little) stir in the vinegar.
Place the spinach in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the dressing over the greens. Using salad tongs, toss the spinach with the dressing and serve immediately, topped with the cornbread croutons. Serves 4.