Someone pinch me, I must be dreaming. Either that or spring is finally on its way!
I predicted the same about a month ago when Ben and I were out on a date night. We were bellied up to the bar of our favorite little tapas place, a champagne martini in my hand, whiskey neat in his, blistered creme brulee with strawberries and freshly whipped cream in front of us. I don’t know if it was the champagne talking, but something took over my body compelling me to proclaim, This is it! The snow is behind us. I can totally feel it!
Ummm, it literally started snowing no less than 15 minutes later. For the love…
At any rate, it was so warm the other day that we actually had to kick on the AC for a few minutes to cool down the upstairs. Poor Lincoln was sweating through his sleep sack! Which, by the way, how much would you love to sleep in a cozy, fleece sack? There’s a business idea for you. Ben keeps trying to make the mansie happen (the man-sized onsie, if you will,) but I think the adult-sized sleep sack’s got a better chance.
All that to say I’m pretty confident that springy salad days are just around the corner. You know, when the sun is warm and you’re craving something light for lunch or dinner like a big, fresh salad. I’ve got you covered with Black & Blue Spring Salad with Honey-Roasted Pecans and Berry-Balsamic Vinaigrette.
Homemade (insanely-easy) lightly-sweetened Honey-Roasted Pecans and a luscious, sweet-tart Berry-Balsamic Vinaigrette join fresh blackberries and really good crumbled blue cheese on a bed of tender, spring mix lettuce in this elegant appetizer salad. Want to make it a full meal? Add roasted shrimp, grilled chicken, or a juicy steak.
This salad is based on the Market Salad from Whole Foods which combines spring mix lettuce with walnuts, dried cranberries, blue cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette. An awesome combo, for sure, but my take really elevates things. The Honey-Roasted Pecans are totally awesome (I had to make a second batch because I ate the first one before I could photograph the salads!) and using fresh berries instead of dried is a tasty nod to Spring and all the fresh, in-season produce that’s coming our way.
Like I said, this salad is perfect as an appetizer, or add some protein to make it a meal!
Start by making the Honey-Roasted Pecans. I want to slap myself for never knowing how easy honey-roasted nuts are to make. The recipe for ’em is actually from the 31 Meals Cookbook I featured last week!
Simply melt 1/2 Tablespoon butter in a bowl then add 1 Tablespoon honey. Stir to mix then add 1/2 cup pecans and toss to coat.
Spread the nuts onto a silpat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet then bake for 5-6 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the nuts are golden brown and fragrant. Sprinkle lightly with salt when they’re fresh out of the oven then cool completely, after which they’ll have a fabulously light and sweet crunch. You could make these nuts several days ahead of time, by the way.
Next make the Berry-Balsamic Vinaigrette, which could also be made ahead of time. It’s actually even better after sitting in the fridge for a bit.
Combine 1/2 cup fresh blackberries (could use blueberries) with 1 Tablespoon sugar in a food processor or blender. Pulse to break the berries up slightly then let them sit and get juicy for a minute or two.
Next add 2 Tablespoons each balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, 1 Tablespoon honey, and salt and pepper. Process or blend until smooth then taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Be warned: this dressing is spoon-drink worthy. So yummy!
Time to turn your attention to zee blue cheese. I used to HATE blue cheese. Like, totally loathed it. Then one day I didn’t. That’s all I got to say about that.
If you still don’t like blue cheese, this salad would be just as good with feta or chevre. I’d actually go with chevre. It’s amazing on salads – kind of melts into the dressing and gets fabulously creamy.
Anyway, I think the reason I didn’t like blue cheese before is because I wasn’t eating the right kind. Investing a few bucks into a good wedge makes all the difference. Maytag blue cheese, which is made locally, is absolutely to die for. Probably why it’s one of the most popular blue cheeses in the country!
Blue cheese is very strong so you’ll only need 3oz for 4 side salads. All you have to do is crumble it up with a fork.
Divide 5oz spring mix lettuce between plates then top with the honey-roasted pecans, blue cheese crumbles, and tons of fresh blackberries. Drizzle with the homemade berry-balsamic vinaigrette, then you’re set!
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Black & Blue Spring Salad with Honey-Roasted Pecans and Berry-Balsamic Vinaigrette
Black & Blue Spring Salad with Honey-Roasted Pecans and Berry-Balsamic Vinaigrette is a fresh and light, gluten-free side salad.
- 5oz spring mix lettuce
- 12oz fresh blackberries (could use blueberries)
- 3oz blue cheese, crumbled (could use chevre or feta cheese)
- For the Honey-Roasted Pecans:
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 1/2 Tablespoon butter
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- For the Berry-Balsamic Vinaigrette:
- 1/2 cup fresh blackberries
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- salt and pepper
- For the Honey-Roasted Pecans: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a bowl then add honey and pecans. Toss to coat then spread out on a silpat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 5-6 minutes, or until golden brown and fragrant (watch carefully so they don't burn.) Sprinkle lightly with salt then set aside and let cool completely (can be made ahead of time.)
- For the Berry-Balsamic Vinaigrette: Add blackberries and sugar to a food processor or blender then process or blend until berries are crushed. Let sit for a minute then add remaining ingredients and process or blend until smooth. Set aside (can be made ahead of time.)
- Divide lettuce between plates then top with blackberries, blue cheese crumbles, and honey-roasted pecans. Dress with berry-balsamic vinaigrette then serve.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.
Like I said, this salad is the perfect starter for a meal or would make a killer entree salad with the addition of grilled or sauteed shrimp, chicken, or steak. I vote for steak. Blue cheese + steak? Winning!