We were chatting with a friend about Thanksgiving dinner, and he was recalling a salad he’d really enjoyed, made with cranberries and walnuts and orange slices.
I did a quick search of da Google and we couldn’t find THE one version of the salad, but I did find several others that certainly looked as tho’ they’d do, with just a few tweaks here and there, for the big day.
Romaine and baby spinach for the base of the salad, for the rest, well, let’s see…
•1 bag baby spinach
•1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
•1 sweet onion, sliced thin
•1/2 English cucumber, sliced thin
•Roasted sliced beets (see below)
•Spiced walnuts (see below)
Poppy Seed French Dressing:
•1-1/2 cup veggie oil
•3/4 cup vinegar
•3/4 cup sugar
•1-1/2 tsp salt
•1-1/2 tsp celery seed
•1-1/2 tsp dry mustard
•1-1/2 tsp paprika
•1/8 to 1/4 sweet onion
•1 tbsp poppy seed
•1 can sliced beets, drained and rinsed
•2 heaping cups raw English wlanuts
•1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
•1 tsp or chili powder or other seasoning
•1/2 tsp sea salt
First things first, make the dressing by placing the onion, paprika, dry mustard, celery seed, sugar, and salt in a blender jar and pour the vinegar over (I used cider vinegar for this batch).
Place the lid on the blender (with the little handle removed), cover the hole with a bit of paper towel, and blend until the onion is finely chopped and the mixture is well blended and smooth.
With the blender running, slowly stream the veggie oil through the hole in the lid and continue blending until the oil has been absorbed and the dressing is emulsified and creamy looking.
For the last step, tip that tablespoon of poppy seed into the blender jar and give it all a good couple of pulses to blend.
Transfer to a lidded jar and stash in the fridge for a few hours for the flavors to meld.
Note: this recipe’ll make about 1-1/2 pint of dressing, so you should have plenty to get you through your feast days.
Next, let’s do the beets. I cheat and start with canned, sliced beets; if you’d prefer to use fresh, more power to you.
Drain and rinse the beets (or, prepare and slice ’em), then lightly apply cooking spray to a rack set into a foil lined baking pan and place under your broiler.
Heat the broiler, with the pan underneath, for about ten minutes, then remove the pan and arrange the sliced beets (however they got that way) in a single layer on the rack and season lightly with sea salt.
Pop under the broiler for two minutes, then remove and turn the beets over.
Repeat, turning every two minutes, until the beets are a bit blackened at the edges, mebbe six to eight minutes total, depending on the size of your slices and if your broiler has a hot spot.
Set aside to cool, then stash in a covered container until needed.
For the walnuts, heat your oven to 350° and set a large, shallow pot of water to boil on top of the stove.
Whisk the confectioners’ sugar together with the salt and the chili powder or your seasoning of choice. Since my friend had talked about the salad having orange slices, I chose to use a slightly spicy, citrus laden blend from The Spice House; Caribbean Calypso Seasoning. If you’d prefer something different, try your favorite steak spice blend. Gateway to the North Maple Garlic Seasoning is a fave of mine – on steaks, on bacon, and yes, even on nuts.
Tumble the walnuts into a large mesh sieve, then place in the boiling water for three minutes.
Note: you could also use raw pecans, but only leave them in the boiling water for 15 seconds.
Remove the nuts from the water and immediately toss with the sugar blend until they are well coated.
Arrange the nuts on a foil lined baking tray (I used the tray I’d had under the rack for the beets) and pop into the hot oven for seven minutes.
Give ’em a good stir, then back into the oven for seven to nine more minutes, watching carefully after six minutes. You want the nuts to be golden brown with bits or cooked sugar crunch, not burnt sugar nuts.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Walnuts or pecans, these nuts make a tasty snack all by themselves, so make extra to share before dinner.
To make the salad, arrange the Romaine and baby spinach in a bowl or platter, top with the sliced onion, cucumber, feta cheese, roasted beets, and spiced walnuts. Drizzle the dressing over, toss and serve 0r, more better, really, ’cause leftovers would wilt, toss the salad without the dressing and pass it along side, allowing folk to dress as they like.
I had leftover salad from my test run, and found that leftovers made for a fine and roll up sammich for lunch the next day.
With more of that dressing spooned over the top, of course.
BTW, for folk who are concerned about the amount of sugar (or the fact of sugar) used in this dressing, I plan on offering our guests a very good (and sugar free – I use honey) alternative – KC salad dressing; also wicked simple to put together, and very tasty.