Thursday, November 4, 2010

Apple and Pecan Salad with Vidalia-Honey Vinaigrette

I don't usually make great salads. I'm going to just admit that one off the bat. I love a good salad but I find the ones I make at home just are not that exciting. Therefore, I don't make them a whole lot. My go to side salad is lettuce, cucumbers, avocado, green onion, cherry tomato and Italian dressing. It's fine, but nothing special. I like very put together salads. Kind's who have the perfect crisp lettuce to match the dressing and a great combo of ingredients (something kinda salty, something kinda crunchy, something kinda sweet) that compliment and balance each other. Basically, the salad has to speak to me. It has to say "I have tons of flavor and I'm very interesting, try me".

That's exactly what this salad did. It spoke to me. I have always loved Vidalia onion vinaigrette's but did not know how to make one from scratch until now. It's a great dressing. Slightly sweet and tangy with a solid carmel-y, onion-y foundation that just sings. It's perfect with greens, nuts (kinda crunchy), apple (kinda sweet) and well, cranberries, which are also kinda sweet, but, you could throw in some aged cubed cheddar if you are really wanting that kinda salty element.

We ate this along side a casual soup and it just stepped up the entire dinner. This salad is homey, special and so Fall. You could also eat this alone as a main course with a dinner roll because it's that satisfying. And I don't take eating salad for dinner lightly.

Vidalia-Honey Vinaigrette
adapted from Southern Living, Oct. 2010

1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onion
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp vegetable oil(I used 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup cider vinegar, divided
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Saute onion in 1 tbsp hot oil in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring often, 8 minutes or until caramel colored. Add 2 tbsp. vinegar, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet. Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes.

Process onion mixture, honey, salt, pepper, mustard, 1 Tbsp vinegar, and remaining oil (I recommend adding 1/2 cup oil and tasting before adding the other 1/4 cup to see if you even need it) in a blender or magic bullet for 30 seconds or until blended. Cover and chill 3 to 24 hours.

Apple and Pecan Salad
serves 4

5-6 cups salad greens (I used a mixture of green and purple butter lettuces)
1 large honeycrisp apple, chopped
a couple handfuls of toasted pecans
1 handful of dried cranberries
a handful of cubed of aged cheddar (optional)

Toss together with the vinaigrette and serve immediately

You won't need all the dressing for the salad. Just use enough to coat the leaves nicely and reserve the rest for another time. You can use whichever salad greens you prefer, but I used the butter leaf mix plus a few handfuls of baby arugula because it's hardy and can stand up nicely to the vinaigrette. This dressing is thick and will weigh down delicate greens such as arugula alone. Butter lettuces are a perfect match for this salad.