Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pear and (Spicy) Candied Pecan Salad w/Raspberry Dijon Vinaigrette

Years ago, I worked at a restaurant in Red Wing, MN where this salad was its #1 salad-seller.  People loved it and I still make it, especially in the summer.  It has just a few ingredients and once you've made the vinaigrette and pecans, comes together in a snap.  And it's a nice, showy entree salad also.

The original recipe calls for Candied Pecans, but I preferred the restaurant's Spicy Candied Pecans instead so I list both recipes.  Personally, I had a hard time making the Candied Pecans, plus they were just too sweet and hard on my teeth.  I prefer the mild spice-bite that comes with the spicy version.  Choice whichever you prefer.  

Also, the original salad on the menu didn't come with the grilled chicken, but I always add it to make it an entree salad.  And use any kind of pear you prefer: Anjou or Bartlett, red or green, or Asian pears are also wonderful.  Additionally, make a full serving or either pecans you choose (or more).....they freeze wonderfully.


1/2 cup EVOO
1/4 cup raspberry or raspberry balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
4 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
freshly-ground black pepper

Salad ingredients:
6-8 cups lettuce, mixed spring mix and romaine
crumbled Gorgonzola or Bleu Cheese
2 pears or Asian pears, cut in half, seeded, and cut into fans
2 grilled chicken breasts (marinated in vinaigrette, in desired), cut into slices, optional

Candied Pecans:
1/2 cup pecan halves
2/3 cup sugar

Spicy Candied Pecans:
6 Tbsp corn syrup
3 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne, or less, to taste
1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
3 cups pecan halves

To make the vinaigrette:
Whisk all ingredients together.

To make the Candied Pecans:
Heat 2/3 cup sugar in a small skillet over medium heat until sugar melts.  Stir in pecans until all are well coated.  Spread quickly on buttered foil and spread apart with two forks (coated with cooking spray).  When cool, chop or break into pieces.

To make Spicy Candied Pecans:
Combine corn syrup with the next 5 ingredients; mix well in a large bowl.  Add pecans and stir gently to coat.  Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray.  Spread on baking sheet.  Bake at 350F for 2 1/2 minutes.  Then, using a fork, stir to coat with mixture and bake again until pecans are golden and coating is bubbly, about 5-10 minutes more.

Transfer to a piece of foil and quickly separate pecans with a fork.  Cool them and store in an air-tight container at room temperature or in the freezer.

To make the salad:
Toss fresh greens with dressing and divide on 4 plates.  Top with gorgonzola and sprinkle with pecans.  Cut each pear in half and cut fan-like and fan out in the center of each salad.  Place slices of grilled chicken around the plate if using.  Drizzle a bit of the vinaigrette over the finished salad.

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