Spinach Salad With Brown Sugar-Bacon Vinaigrette and Roasted Hazelnuts

1 pound tender, young spinach, trimmed of coarse stems
10 slices bacon, snipped crosswise into julienne strips before cooking
1/3 cup red- or white-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon firmly packed golden-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 mushrooms, washed, dried and sliced thin
1/2 cup chopped, roasted and skinned hazelnuts
2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and diced
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Wash the spinach well in several changes of cold water, spin dry, then bundle in paper towels and refrigerate. When ready to proceed, mound spinach in a large, heatproof salad bowl.

Brown the bacon in a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat for 3 to 5 minutes until golden and crispy. Drain crisp bacon bits on paper towels and set aside.

Drain off all but 2 tablespoons bacon drippings. Stir in the vinegar, scraping up all cooked-on bits of bacon. Whisk in the brown sugar, salt and black pepper. Add the olive oil, then adjust seasonings; set dressing aside while you assemble salad ingredients.

Tear spinach into bite-sized pieces, discarding tough stems. For individual servings, divide spinach between 6 to 8 salad bowls or plates. Over each bowl, layer the mushrooms, hazelnuts and some dressing. Sprinkle each serving with some of the egg, crumbled bacon and Parmesan cheese. For 1 large bowl, prepare as above and toss salad at the table right before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


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