Autumn is my favorite time of the year... Especially this stretch of time between Halloween and Christmas when the anticipation of gatherings between family and friends fills my heart. My house always seems more cozy and welcoming during this time of year, with warm and spicy smells wafting out of my kitchen.
This post is about a salad that bridges the gap between summer's lightness and winter's heavier meals. It has the crisp and light flavor of greens but they are combined with the flavors that make this time of year so special----holiday spice. The completed salad takes a little preparation but once the components are prepared, the salad is quick to assemble and the ingredients will make a few salads.
Some of this salad's components are worth making on their own, as well. Within this post are recipes for Honey Spiced Pecans, Simple Roasted Fall Pears, and a White Vinaigrette. Each of these items are a welcome addition to other meals (Spiced pecans can be served with Pumpkin Cheesecake, Pumpkin Pie, and ice cream; the pears can make another salad of roasted pears, blue cheese and pecans alone; the vinaigrette is yummy on oven roasted vegetables---such as asparagus and brussel sprouts with blue cheese... ).
Honey Spiced Pecans
16 oz. pckg. Pecan pieces
2/3 C. powdered sugar
1/3 C. honey
3 T. warm water
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. finely ground red pepper flakes
Method: Preheat oven to 350-degrees. In a large, wide bowl, add all of the ingredients. With clean hands, thoroughly combine the ingredients so that all of the nuts are completely coated---you will need to break up the honey into the warm water, and add more water, if needed. Spread the nuts out onto a heavy baking sheet, lined with parchment and sprayed liberally with non-stick cooking spray.
Bake for approximately 15-25 minutes, checking periodically. The nuts are done when they are deep brown and glossy/shiny looking. Allow to completely cool and then break apart into small pieces.
The nuts will keep for weeks in an air-tight jar and they also make a great gift!
4 Bosch Pears (slightly unripe and firm)
3 T. Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Method: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel, cut into halves, and core the pears (a melon baller works great here). In a bowl, toss the pears with the olive oil, and salt and pepper. Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment and lay the pears, cut side down, on the sheet. Roast the pears for approximately 20 minutes, or until they are just turning a little brown and are tender. Allow to cool and cut into 1/2-inch dice for the salad.
1/4 C. champaigne vinegar, or white balsamic vinegar
2 T. light dijon mustard (Grey Poupon)
3/4 C. good extra-virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Method: In a bowl, vigorously whisk together ingredients until the dressing is emulsified. Alternatively, you could place the vinegar, mustard, s & p in a food processor and with the motor running, very slowly add the EVOO until emulsified. This dressing also lends itself to adding tarragon for use with grilled fish...
1/2 C. Roasted Pears, diced
1/3 C. Honey Spiced Pecans
1 package Mesclun Salad Mix
1/3 C. good-quality blue cheese, crumbled
To assemble the salad: Layer a small layer of greens in a wide salad bowl and sprinkle with half of the blue cheese, pecans, and pears, and then layer another layer of greens over the first. On top of the salad, sprinkle the remaining blue cheese, pecans, and roasted pears. Serve with White Vinegrette.