The dish we've come to know as warm spinach salad — greens tossed with a hot bacon dressing — wasn't really a salad at all, to hear the Black cookbook authors tell it through the years. Survey the vegetables section of soul food and early 20th century Black cookbooks and look for this uber-popular combination with titles like "wilted" or "killed" lettuce or spinach, or you might miss it.
Back in the day, farm folks tossed combinations of bitter greens and herbs, such as escarole, chicory, purslane and watercress, with a warm dressing they stirred together right in a hot skillet after cooking bacon. In harder times, wild weeds like dandelion and poke, as in "poke sallet," answered the call. Soul cooks carried on the tradition of wilting lettuce leaves instead of spinach. Harmony McCoy, resident chef at Murietta Hot Springs Resort in California, tried to slim down the dish for waistline watchers by topping watercress with a dusting of crumbled bacon and bottled low-cal dressing.
I returned to the wilted lettuce tradition here with so-called power greens. These greens are dark and rich in vitamins and minerals and taste delicious. Try it my way, then experiment with your favorite combination of tender baby greens and herbs.
In a large salad bowl, toss together the greens, radishes, onion, eggs and tomatoes.2.
In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 7 minutes. Leaving the rendered bacon fat in the skillet, remove the bacon to drain on paper towels and crumble when cool enough to handle.3.
Heat the bacon fat in the skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Swirl the pan over the heat for 1 to 2 minutes to concentrate the flavors and slightly thicken the dressing. Pour the hot dressing over the greens and toss quickly to coat. Sprinkle the greens with the crumbled bacon and blue cheese (if using).