This salad is perfect for a cool, cozy autumn evening, as a holiday starter, or paired with a golden roast chicken. You can even make it the day after Thanksgiving and add leftover turkey. You'll have leftover pecans, which is a good thing because it will be difficult to resist snacking on them as you prepare this dish. You can save any leftover dressing for several days. —mariaraynal
brown sugar, or to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper
coarse sea or kosher salt, to taste
slices applewood smoked bacon, sliced into lardons
baby spinach leaves or greens of your choice
thin slices of high quality cheddar cheese (use a vegetable peeler)
small or half a large apple, cored and sliced thinly
For honey roasted pecans: Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine butter, honey and brown sugar into a small saucepan over low heat. When butter melts, add cayenne and salt. Add pecans to pan, combine well and turn out onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Separate pecans and bake for 15-18 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
Meantime, cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until golden and crispy. Remove and cool on paper towels. Reserve 1 tablespoon drippings.
For dressing: add shallot, vinegar, cider, drippings, Dijon and honey to a small bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper and add lemon zest.
Combine spinach and golden raisins in a large bowl. Add bacon and spoon 2-3 tablespoons of dressing on greens, or to taste. Mix gently with hands. Add cheese slices, apple and pecans to taste. Serve, passing extra dressing at table.
I'm a self-trained home cook and freelance food writer who enjoys cooking and eating seasonally and locally whenever possible. When I travel, visiting the farmers' markets, local groceries and specialty food shops is as important as the shopping, museums and restaurants. I love to immerse myself in cookbooks, then go into the kitchen and experiment; and writing about food and the chefs who cook it is my latest pursuit. By day, I'm an executive speechwriter and event planner.