Winter Delight Salad - elegant enough for the Limoges china, popular enough for a potluck.
If you're looking for a winter salad that's both bold and beautiful, simple and satisfying, look no further.
We developed this salad when I was the chair of the salad section of the Huntington Garden's herb cookbook, a Celebration of Herbs. (Believe it or not, arugula, the green used in this salad, is considered an herb.) Even though this recipe didn't make it into the book, it's become my "signature salad" - the one I'm most often asked to bring to potlucks. "Can you bring that salad you do? The one with the candied pecans?" friends often ask.
What makes this a "winter delight salad"? Pears are hard and bland when out of season, but a delight in winter, when the fruit is ripe and sweet. The pairing of sweet and sour, crunchy and soft, peppery and pungent make this winter salad even more delightful.
Winter Delight Salad
1 bag baby arugula greens
2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, thinly sliced
2 pears, thinly sliced
1/4 C. candied walnuts or pecans
1/2 C. gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/3 C. balsamic vinegar
1/2 C. virgin olive oil
1 t. lemon juice
1 minced shallot
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
Blend together all ingredients.
I've experimented with at least a half dozen recipes for candied pecans (with or without butter, with or without egg whites, brown or white sugar, on the stove top or in the oven, with a variety of liquids) and I think this one is the easiest and best.
1 1/2 cups toasted pecans
1/2 cup liquid (I like to use brandy)
1 cup brown sugar
- Toast pecans in a dry, non-stick fry pan, being careful not to burn.
- Add brandy and sugar and stir.
- Keep stirring until liquid evaporates and turns into a glaze on the pecans.
- Dump pecans in a single layer on a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Use candied pecans as a snack, in salads, as a vegetable topping (especially good with sweet potatoes, squash or pumpkin) or as a topping on desserts, such as ice cream or baked pears.
Something old, someting new: Vintage Limoges china is from the Pasadena City College Flea Market. Vintage linen napkins are from a Chicago yard sale. Gold double-satin ribbon on napkins is from e-bay.
The dinner party was a great success, even though I forgot about the sweet potato, butternut squash gratin (from Pinch My Salt) that I'd popped into the broiler for browning. By the time the smoke was wafting from the broiler, the golden brown gruyere cheese had turned coal black. I pulled off the charred layer and it was still a hit. Is it any wonder why friends ask me to bring the salad to potlucks?