Spicy Blue Cheese Salad with Apples and Caramelized Pecans

Spicy Blue Cheese Salad with Apples and Caramelized Pecans

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One of my favorite recipes for blue cheese, though, is in a salad with spinach, apples and spicy caramelized pecans. I love the contrast of the sharp-tasting, creamy, salty cheese with the crispy, sweet fruit, the astringent-tasting spinach and the earthy-sweet-spicy nuts. You get a classic combination of flavors, without having to open an expensive bottle of Sauternes. Or just make my Spicy Caramelized Pecans on their own and eat them with blue cheese after your meal. You'll wish National Dairy Month came around more often.

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Northbrook, IL

Serving Size / Yield

4 s

Ingredients

  • Spicy Caramelized Pecans:
  • 1 1/2 C. peanut oil or vegetable oil
  • Water
  • 1 C. shelled pecan halves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 C. confectioners' sugar
  • Spago House Dressing:
  • 3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 C. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 C. walnut oil
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • Salad:
  • 1 apple, chilled
  • 1/3 C. dried cranberries
  • 1 small lemon, juiced
  • 8 oz. baby spinach leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
  • 1 small head radicchio, trimmed and cut crosswise into narrow ribbons
  • 1/2 C. crumbled blue cheese
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • About 1/2 C. of Spago house dressing (see separate recipe)
  • 1 C. Spiced Caramelized Pecans (see separate recipe)

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Directions

Prepare the Spicy Caramelized Pecans in advance. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil to 350 degrees F. on a deep-frying thermometer.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Add the pecans to the water in 2 separate batches, boiling each for 2 minutes. Drain them in a strainer, shaking off all excess water, and leave them in the strainer. Holding the strainer over a plate, sprinkle the salt and cayenne pepper over the nuts. Then, a little at a time, sprinkle the confectioners' sugar over them, allowing the sugar to melt into the pecans; toss the nuts by shaking the strainer, adding a little more sugar each time, until all the sugar is used and the nuts are coated. Do not use your hands or a spoon to toss them, or you'll interfere with the even glaze.

Carefully add the glazed nuts to the hot oil, adjusting the heat if necessary to maintain the 350 degrees F. temperature. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove the nuts with a slotted spoon to a baking tray to cool. When they are completely cool, store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Before making the salad, prepare the Spago House Dressing. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegars, mustard, shallot and thyme. Whisking continuously, drizzle in the oils to form a smooth, thick emulsion. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This will make about 1 C.; store extra in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

For the salad, use a sharp knife to cut the apple into quarters. Cut out the stem, seeds and core, then cut the quarters lengthwise into very thin slices. Put them in a salad bowl, sprinkle with the lemon juice, and toss gently to coat them and prevent oxidization.

Just before serving, add the spinach, radicchio and blue cheese and season lightly with salt and pepper. Briefly whisk the dressing and add 1/2 C. to the bowl. Toss gently to coat all the ingredients. Taste and, if necessary, adjust the seasonings.

Divide the salad among 4 chilled serving plates, mounding it attractively. Scatter the pecan over each salad and serve immediately.

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