I have a confession to make. Although I love to cook and can happily spend hours chopping fruit to make marmalade, I hate making salad. I mean the kind of salad made with iceberg dressing, carrots, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and so forth. Not only do I dislike chopping all the vegetables, but the whole thing tastes a little, well, pedestrian to me. The results just do not seem worth the effort. I’d much rather throw together a simple combination of whatever is available in the garden or at the farmers market, and then add one or two seasonal ingredients that make the salad sing.
In the garden this afternoon, I harvested a beautiful bunch of fresh arugula. Arugula has the reputation of being kind of snooty, and it is definitely pricey in the supermarket, but I am not sure why. A cool season green from the cruciferous family, arugula grows like a weed (hence its nickname, rocket), and its peppery, spicy flavor adds a ton of flavor to salads, pastas and sandwiches. Arugula is also far more nutritious than iceberg lettuce. Throw down some seeds in early spring, and give it a try!
Because arugula has a little bite to it, I wanted to balance my salad with some sweetness and some creaminess. So I threw in a a handful of dried cranberries, a sprinkle of blue cheese crumbles, some very thin slices of red onion, and a few of the candied pecans that I made this afternoon. Almost no chopping and slicing, or dicing is required for this elegant, flavorful salad!
While fixing the salad, I thought that a pecan vinaigrette would be the perfect dressing for this salad. Pecans are a staple here in the south at this time of year, so I gathered enough fresh pecans along the back fence by my neighbor’s grove to make this sweet, tangy vinaigrette. Toasting the pecans for just a couple of minutes over medium heat really brings out their rich, nutty flavor. A little balsamic vinegar, some local honey, olive oil and seasonings are all it takes to make this special dressing. I think it is our new favorite! I love to make vinaigrette in a Mason jar—it is perfect for mixing up the dressing and serving at a country table.
- ¼ cup minced shallot or red onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ⅓ cup honey (preferably local)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup roasted pecans, chopped
- Combine all the ingredients in a jam jar and shake well to blend and emulsify the dressing.