Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spinach and Candied Walnut Salad

Every now and then I look for random recipes based strictly on what's in my fridge/pantry. Last night I had a bag of spinach and leftover blue cheese that I wanted to use up. So after looking at blogs and websites filled with the same salad (more or less) that used ingredients I didn't have at home, I was relieved to find this one! I tweaked the salad only by using apples instead of pears, either fruit would be great, and was really happy with the result. The candied walnuts were so easy to make and are a great snack, even on their own. I think I ate about half of them straight off the baking sheet. The dressing is nothing to brag about, but all the flavors come together really well when the salad is mixed.  You can chop everything into bit sized bit or just use the spinach leaves as-is and slices of fruit. It's also great because you can adjust the amount of cheese, fruit and walnuts based on your own preferences. I didn't follow the scale of this recipe since I made it for 2 people, so go ahead and play around with it. The recipe I'm posting is the original, made for more people

Adapted from BellaOnline
Serves about 8 as a starter
Prep time: 5 minutes

3 bosc pear or 3 apples
1/2 pound baby spinach
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon no sugar added raspberry jam, or add more if you want a sweeter dressing
1/2 cup candied walnuts (recipe follows)

Cut pears/apples into bite size pieces or into thin slices. Place in a bowl, sprinkle with the lemon juice and place in fridge until you're ready to serve. Put spinach in a bowl. I left the leaves whole, but you can tear them smaller if you'd like. Add pears/apples and blue cheese and walnuts, or lay on top of spinach decoratively. Gently mix, if desired. Make the vinaigrette by whisking olive oil, vinegar and jam together. Make sure this is whisked well right before serving. Either pour over the salad (if using chopped fruit) and toss, or drizzle over the salad.

Candied Walnuts

Feel free to scale this recipe down if you're just using it for the salad, but I highly suggest making at least one cup.

2 cups walnuts, either whole or halves
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Melt butter in a skillet. Add walnut and cook for 3 minutes, stirring well. Add vinegar and sugar. Stir well and cook until sugar has dissolved, then keep cooking an additional 2 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. If storing extras, allow to cool, place in a re-sealable bag with a paper towel (to absorb moisture) and store in a cool, dry place.

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