For the last couple of years, my neighbor Molly has been bringing this salad to our neighborhood potluck parties, and every time I go completely zonkers over it. The basic elements are mixed greens with pecans and goat cheese, tossed with a sweet mustard vinaigrette. The recipe has plenty of room for improvisation—use baby spinach or butter lettuce instead of or in addition to the mixed greens, orange segments or sliced kumquats for a citrus note, toasted walnuts instead of pecans, etc. Use more or less of any ingredient to taste.
If making in advance for a party, do not add the dressing until you are ready to serve. The recipe makes more salad dressing than is required for the salad.
- 4 ounces pecans, whole
- 1 Tbsp melted butter
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp honey mustard
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb mixed salad greens, including fresh baby spinach
- 4 ounces goat cheese
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-2 inch thin slices
1 Preheat oven to 300°F. Place pecans in a bowl, pour melted butter over them, sprinkle with sugar, and gently toss until the pecans are all well coated with a dusting of sugar. Place them in a single layer on a parchment paper or Silpat lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool to touch.
2 Whisk together the honey mustard, garlic, red pepper flakes, and balsamic vinegar in a medium sized bowl. Slowly drizzle the oil into the mixture, whisking constantly until completely incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3 Place lettuces and baby spinach in a large bowl. Add the goat cheese, dried cranberries, red bell pepper, and pecans. Toss with 1/4 cup of the dressing.
Serve immediately. Chill remaining dressing.