Blueberry Bacon Salad with Basil Peach Vinaigrette (& networking)

Going to NU did a lot of things for me. It cemented my love for Chicago. It gave me friends that are near and dear to my heart. It provided me with experiences that I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere else – meeting people, attending events, and opening doors that would’ve been locked, dead bolted, and rigged with a trip wire had I not been a student.

Try as it might though, there is one thing NU failed at.

Getting me to be competent at “networking.”

Bleh! I hate that word! It feels so…dirty to me? Underhanded? Scheming? I know it’s not, I know it’s a vital and useful tool for people to pursue careers and personal achievements. I’ve just always felt like a big ol’ goober attempting to do it myself. No amount of mixers or job fairs or events ever changed that. I always ended up feeling like a greasy used car salesman.

Thankfully, my job is constant practice at meeting new people – starting conversations and establishing connections with anyone who walks in. I’m quite good at it, I enjoy it, revel in it. Dare I say, I thought I was becoming a…*gasp* networker!

And then…Seth and I went to Anew Emporium in Shawano and it all went to hell.

Anew is a lovely store downtown that sells tea and infused olive oils and vinegars and we will spend an entire afternoon there – try and tasting before making our purchases. I love it there. The owners are kind and excited about what they do – willing to offer help and answer any question. Being there makes my mind buzz with ideas – all of the different flavor combinations and recipes I want to try.

I’ve shared all this with Seth – the ideas I have, the food I want to make. He is on board. And I am grateful. A few weeks ago, I even brought up the idea of partnering with them in some way, shape, or form, tentatively asked him what he thought.

“That’s an outstanding idea!”

He is on board. And I am grateful.

He is so on board, in fact, that when I froze like a deer in headlights on our last visit – couldn’t quite get the words out, the ideas stalled – he sprang into action and began asking questions on my behalf. My very own hype man.

He got my questions answered, and somewhat quelled my fears. That gave me the push I needed to start creating the dishes that had only been bouncing around in my head for weeks. I don’t yet have a partnership planned, or a deal worked out, but I figured this could be seen as a dry run. (Hi Abigael, Hi Chelsea!) My own version of networking – one I’m comfortable with, one that is delicious, and, God willing, effective.

Blueberry Bacon Salad with Goat Cheese & Green Beans

6 strips bacon

½ pound fresh green beans, cleaned and trimmed

½ cup blueberries

12 oz. package baby spinach

4 oz. fresh goat cheese

Anew’s Peach Infused White Balsamic Vinegar

Anew’s Basil Infused Olive Oil

Heat a medium cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, place bacon in pan and cook until crispy. Remove bacon from pan to drain on paper towel before crumbling.

Toss green beans into pan and stir to coat in bacon drippings. Cook until tender and lightly charred.

Place the spinach in a large salad bowl and top with bacon, green beans, blueberries, and goat cheese. Drizzle with equal parts balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Adding pecans, walnuts, or pistachios would be a lovely addition to this salad if you’re needing a little crunch! Or freeze-dried peaches! Oh my!

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