Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Organic Baby Lettuce Salad with Blue, Beets, and Carmelized Pecans

My artistic sister Cheryl and I share a love of vegetables, especially salads, and particularly colorful salads featuring contrasting flavors and textures.  This year Cheryl made this beautiful salad that combines sweet and savory for our Thanksgiving feast, and it was so good that I made it again for a Christmas potluck, and then second time just because....  My sister's version includes bacon, which is of course very delicious, but as you will see the bacon is conspicuously absent from the vegetarian version depicted below.  The following recipe serves about 6 decent-sized portions.  I doubled it for the potluck, as did my sister for Thanksgiving.

Start with about 8 cups of mixed organic baby lettuce.  Use whatever blend of lettuce varieties you enjoy, but be sure to include radicchio, notable for its eye-catching red color and lovely bitter accent.  Chop the lettuce coarsely and place in a large serving bowl.

Roast or boil 2-3 yellow beets, and when cool, peel the beets, slice them into thin wedges, and give them a quick pickle by allowing them to rest in a bowl with a splash of vinegar and some salt and pepper for 15 minutes or so.

In the meantime, peel and mince 2 medium shallots, and dice up 1 yellow tomato and 1/2 an English cucumber.  Also, chop up a handful of fresh herbs, such as dill, parsley, and/or mint for an extra flavor punch! Sprinkle the ingredients over the lettuce and add the pickled beets.

Next, measure out 1/4 cup of crumbled blue cheese and 1/3 cup of candied pecans.  (You can candy the pecans yourself, but Trader Joe's sells candied pecans that are out of this world.)  Coarsely chop the pecans.

Finally, whisk together a simple Dijon vinaigrette by measuring out 1/4 cup of very good extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and a bit of Kosher salt.  Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving, scatter the blue cheese and pecans on top, and add a few grinds of fresh cracked black pepper.

Now if you are craving the full on carnivore version of this salad, this is the point at which you would also add plenty of salty crumbled bacon.  And if, like me, you follow a strictly vegan diet (at least during the day), adapt the recipe by swapping cubes of creamy avocado for the blue cheese. 

No matter your dietary predilection, there is a version of this salad for you to enjoy!

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