Winter Salad (with pecans, yams & feta)

February 3, 2010 § 1 Comment

I’ve been trying to scale back on side dishes and salads.  Instead of using an encyclopedia of ingredients on a salad, or clogging up my table with too many bowls and platters of non-main-course fare, I’m trying to use great ingredients, fewer of them and not dirty every bowl in the cupboard for each meal!

Here’s a salad I made a few afternoons ago that was simple and vibrant.  With the exception of the feta, everything in the bowl — from the cilantro to pecans — was sourced from local Arizona farms.   It was a hearty side dish that we ate with thick slabs of eggplant lasagna and homemade bread.  This salad didn’t go overboard on textures, and was packed with flavor from the crisp greens, leafy herbs, warm yams and salty, savory cheese.

Ingredients:
3 large handfuls red-leaf lettuce
1 bunch scallions, chopped (including green part)
1/2 cup cilantro, ripped
2 small yams/sweet potatoes
1/2 cup pecans/walnuts
2 tablespoons evaporated cane sugar
1/3 cup crumbled feta
edible broccoli & arugula flowers (optional)

Orange-Mustard Dressing
1 orange, juiced (approximately 1/4 cup)
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
olive oil, to taste (at least 3 tablespoons)

Methods for the Dressing:

Using a fork, combine all ingredients except olive oil in a medium-sized bowl.  While whisking, add olive oil in a steady stream until the dressing reaches the desired consistency.  Test it.  If the dressing is too sharp, add a bit more olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Methods for the Salad Prep:

1.  Preheat oven to 375.  Fill a small pot of water and heat on the stove.  Chop yams/sweet potatoes into bite sized chunks and boil for 5-7 minutes until slightly tenderized.  Drain.  Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper and bake in the oven until soft, about 10 minutes.  (Alternatively, skip the boiling step and bake approximately 30 minutes.)  If crisp potato edges are preferred, broil the final 3-4 minutes.

2.  Wash lettuce & spin/pat-dry.  Rip into bite-sized pieces.  Chop scallions and crumble feta.

3.  Chop/crumble pecans into big hunks.  In a small pot or pan, combine pecans and 2 tablespoons of sugar on medium heat until the sugar melts and coats each pecan (about 5-7 minutes).  Keep an eye, stirring frequently — they burn easily.  Remove from heat when pecans are thoroughly coated and begin to brown and become fragrant.  Set-aside and cool completely.

4.  Once sweet potatoes are crisp, remove from oven.  If you top the salad with the hot potatoes, you risk wilting the greens — not as attractive, but still delicious.  I let them cool about 10 minutes before combining all the ingredients, so they’re still warm.  I serve the dressing on the side and let my guests spritz; if you’d rather dress the whole salad, wait until just before serving so the greens don’t wilt.

Diet Notes: Gluten-free

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