Virginia Willis is a French-trained chef and well-loved authority on Southern cooking. Her new book Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome arrived in my mailbox a few weeks back. I’ve enjoyed cooking from it very much.

Bacon-Wilted Greens from @winnieab//

In this beautifully photographed book, Virginia shares “lighter” versions of her favorite Southern recipes. Whole foods ingredients-and vegetables in particular-are featured prominently, and balance and moderation (yay!) are discussed throughout. Nutritional information is provided for all of the recipes.

I chose to make Virginia’s Bacon-Wilted Greens because 1. I am always looking for new ways to serve greens 2. I was intrigued by the baked apple with goat cheese garnish. I really loved this dish and will definitely be making it again! I used local Savoy spinach instead of the kale Virginia calls for: next time I’ll give the kale a try because the spinach cooked down quite a bit and made fewer servings than the recipe in the book states.

Bacon-Wilted Greens from @winnieab//

Recipe for Bacon-Wilted Green with Warm Goat Cheese

Yield: 5 1/2 cups

This dish is Virginia's lighter take on a traditional French preparation of fresh goat cheese melted on a bread crouton over crisp greens.

As I mentioned above, I used local Savoy spinach instead of the kale and I left out the pecans because I didn't have any on hand. If using kale, the greens will not cook down as much as the spinach.

The recipe in the book states that it serves 6 but two of us easily devoured these greens since the spinach cooked down so much.


*2 center-cut bacon slices, cut into lardons ("match-stick" slices)
*1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
*1 apple, such as Gala, Granny Smith, or Honeycrisp, skin on, cored and diced
*Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
*8 cups tender kale, stemmed and cut into chiffonade (I used Savoy spinach)
*1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
*3 tablespoons very finely chopped pecans (I left these out)
*1 (6-ounce) log goat cheese
*1 small apple, such as Gala, Granny Smith, or Honeycrisp, skin on with core, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices


1. Line a plate with paper towels. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone mat and set aside.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to the prepared plate. Pour off all but a film of the grease on the bottom of the pan. (Just eyeball it instead of trying to measure, but it should be just about 1/2 teaspoon; discard the remaining grease.)

3. To make the salad, return the skillet to low heat. Add the onion and the diced apple. Season with salt and pepper. Add the kale; cook until the kale begins to wilt, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add the vinegar; cover, and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, taste, and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to broil. Place the finely chopped pecans in a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper. Roll the goat cheese log in the pecans to evenly coat. Refrigerate until firm if necessary, then cut evenly into 6 rounds and place each round of cheese on the sliced apple. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and broil until the cheese is melted and browned, 3 to 5 minutes.

5. To serve, divide the kale salad among the plates. Top with an apple-cheese round and garnish with the reserved bacon. Serve immediately.

Recipe shared with permission from Lighten Up, Y'all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome by Virginia Willis ©Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. 2015.

Bacon-Wilted Greens from @winnieab//



  1. 1

    Spring cleaning Battersea — March 5, 2015 @ 8:31 am

    It look absolutely delicious! I have to try it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. 2

    Kongi — September 13, 2015 @ 2:16 pm

    Lovely dishes. i appreciate it.