The candied bacon and spiced pecans make this salad special enough to be a holiday side dish. I like it because of its versatility. In the fall I might add slices of crisp, tart apple and spice the pecans with cinnamon instead of cayenne. For Thanksgiving, try adding dried cranberries or diced, roasted butternut squash. If you don't like blue cheese, substitute crumbled fresh goat cheese. —Phillippa Cannon
Heat frying pan. Fry the diced bacon until crisp. Drain off most of the fat. Return the pan to the heat. Add brown sugar and maple syrup to the cooked bacon. Stir to coat. Remove bacon from the pan, let it cool and drain on parchment paper.
Cover pecans with water for one minute. Drain in a sieve, shake off excess water.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, cover pecans with water for one minute. Drain in a sieve and shake off water. Whisk confectioners sugar, cayenne or cinnnamon, and kosher salt in a medium bowl. Add drained pecans, stir to coat with the sugar and spice mixture. Pour pecans into a sieve, shake off excess sugar. Line an 8 by 12 baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour pecans onto the baking sheet and spread out on the pan. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes until the nuts are golden brown, turning nuts halfway through. Remove nuts from the oven. Let cool.
Whisk together the maple syrup, cider vinegar and olive oil.
Combine spinach, cooled bacon, nuts and cheese in a large salad bowl. Toss with the maple syrup-cider vinegar dressing. Serve.