##In Valencia, sometimes the cold winter weather would not permit me to cook anything less then hearty soups and slow-cooked meats in delicious onion gravy. However, last week at the ‘Mercado Central of Valencia’ I did discover one little vegetable purveyor with the most adorable little baby salad greens! I was so excited, thoughts of all those spring-fresh greens swirling around in my head. So, to accompany the slow-cooked beef I decided to pair it with a nice crunchy, warm salad – it was a huge hit, the family devoured it!

Warm Baby Spinach and Pancetta Salad

Serves 4

6-8 bunches of tiny baby spinach, trimmed, washed, and dried
2 thick slices of pancetta, finely diced
4 eggs, hard-boiled for 6-7 mins, shelled and roughly chopped
1 large handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 lemons, juiced
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

1. Combine garlic, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside. Fry the pancetta in a small skillet (you don’t need olive oil or butter for this) on med-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it has started to brown and the fat is rendered, remove from pan with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on some paper towel.

2. In the skillet you cooked the pancetta in, reserve about 2 tbsp of the pancetta grease and add the prepared dressing…heating until it becomes hot. Turn the heat down to med-low and throw in the baby spinach leaves, swirling just for a minute or two… until the leaves are coated and have just started to show signs of wilting. You may do this in separate batches, if your pan is small.

3. Put the spinach and the dressing into your salad bowl, add in the cherry tomatoes, chopped eggs and the pancetta, toss together gently and serve.

This salad is perfect as a meal on its own, but is easily matched to a main course as a side dish. The slight tang the Dijon mustard lends to the dressing gives it a robust taste and it will pair well with a mustard-roast pork, chicken, grilled beef or seafood.

¡Que aproveche!

Erica Choate

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