Spring is in the air, my friends! And so are my cravings for food a liiiittle bit lighter and super fresh. My mom has made this salad for as long as I can remember, usually for special occasions, and through the years it has become my absolute favorite. It tastes incredibly light, but is so packed full of flavor that you don’t even realize you’re eating a salad. Fresh spinach gets topped with feta, candied pecans, sliced strawberries, red onion and shredded chicken. So delish! The dressing is wonderful, too. A simple vinaigrette gets transformed with a slight hint of sweet onion flavor. Woah. Get into it.
Spinach Salad with Candied Pecans & Poppy seed Vinaigrette
for the candied pecans:
1 1/2 cups pecans (or walnuts)
1/2 cup sugar
Combine nuts and sugar in a saucepan. Turn to medium low heat and allow the sugar to melt while stirring continuously. No burnt sugar here! This should take anywhere from 5-10 minutes. When you notice the color of the sugar has darkened to an amber color, take off heat and immediately transfer nuts to a parchment lined baking sheet. Working quickly, use a fork to separate the nuts so that they aren’t touching any others. This will prevent us from having pecan clusters once the sugar dries. When cooled, transfer to a jar or container. While great on this salad, these nuts also make tasty little snacks!
for the dressing:
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons white onion juice (see directions below)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
In a bowl, or jar, add salt, dried mustard, and cider vinegar. To make the onion juice, simply grate a peeled white onion with a cheese grater (or microplane) and squeeze out the juice from the pulp. Add to the vinegar mixture. Incorporate both oils and poppy seeds and shake or whisk until combined. Store in the refrigerator and stir upon serving.
*optional: for a slightly sweeter dressing, add 1 teaspoon sugar and for a lighter, less fruity dressing, use 1 cup canola oil and leave out olive oil.
thinly sliced red onion
crumbled feta cheese
sliced strawberries (dried cherries or cranberries are excellent as well)
candied pecans or walnuts
prepared poppy seed dressing
I think you know how to throw together a salad, but, just in case this is your first rodeo, put spinach in a serving bowl. Top with onion, feta, strawberries, or fruit of your choice, nuts, and chicken. Shake dressing and drizzle desired amount on top. Ah, spring in a bowl!