Friday, August 04, 2006

greens, gorgonzola and sugared walnuts

Recently I've been visiting Three Tomatoes for lunch with friends a lot. I've discovered a salad there that I can't seem to get enough of. I don't know if it's the hot weather, or some craving for something that my body is lacking, but their spinach and arugula salad with radicchio, gorgonzola, and sugared pecans just knocks me out!

We were invited to a potluck at friends' place last night, and as you know, I've been dying to get in my kitchen and make something. It seemed a perfect opportunity to try to replicate the salad.

In fact, it seemed a perfect opportunity to make a salad and an appetizer, so stay tuned for my Hot Pepper Jelly Cheesecake recipe tomorrow.

As often happens, when I went looking for the ingredients, I had to make some substitutions. I couldn't find any arugula at all, other than baby arugula, which doesn't have the peppery bite I wanted. The local season for arugula must be past, which makes sense, since it likes cool weather. We'll probably see some starting to appear in the markets again later in the summer.

I did find some beautiful baby spinach, loose. Don't you just love choosing your own loose greens rather than buying them pre-packaged? I used to love those packages, because they're sprayed with a gas that prolongs the freshness of the greens. But lately I've begun to notice the taste of the gas on the greens themselves, so I've started to avoid them when possible. It's not so noticeable on the spinach, but I am sure I smell/taste it on the precut romaine.

Anyway, the loose spinach was even more beautiful and more baby than usual, so I was delighted to just have spinach in the salad. I found some organic radicchio that I hoped would not be too bitter. Pecans were out of this world at $10.99 a pound, so I substituted walnuts. I asked for a very mild gorgonzola, because The Huz doesn't care for it and it's always a little risky if you don't know the people you're serving.

As it turns out, I needn't have worried. Every leaf was eaten, and afterwards as we all stood around the kitchen island everyone was reaching in the bowl for the last of the sugared nuts!

So, with no further ado, here's the recipe for the modified

Spinach, Arugula, and Radicchio Salad with Gorgonzola and Sugared Pecans

The sugared nuts

2 ½ c walnut or pecans, halves or pieces
1 c sugar
½ c water
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp vanilla
coarse sugar
balsamic vinaigrette

Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the nuts in a shallow baking pan or jelly roll pan and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. When you start to smell the nuts, remove them from the oven and set them aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients except vanilla. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook to the soft-ball stage (236 degrees F on a candy thermometer) without stirring. Remove from the heat. Add the vanilla. Pour mixture over nuts and stir gently until the nuts are well coated and the mixture loses its gloss. It will start to make some strings as you toss and stir. This takes a while. It's OK to set it down for a minute and come back to see if it's cooled off enough to stir some more, or you can keep stirring to speed the cooling off.

Turn out onto a greased platter or some parchment or waxed paper and allow to cool. Just before the coating is totally cool, sprinkle with some coarse sugar and toss.

When nuts are totally cool, chop coarsely.

The salad

baby spinach
arugula, in equal amount with the spinach
1 small head radicchio
mild gorgonzola, crumbled
sugared nuts
balsamic vinaigrette

Crumble the gorgonzola. If it's soft, try putting it in the freezer ahead of time and then shave it with a sharp knife.

Julienne the radicchio into ¼-inch shreds. Toss with a little vinaigrette. Set aside.

Toss the greens with the vinaigrette. Distribute on salad plates. Cover with a layer of radicchio, then a good layer of gorgonzola, and then lots of sugared nuts.

Serve and await the compliments with a modest smile.

This is also my entry in Weekend Herb Blogging, normally hosted by Kalyn but this week being ably hosted by Christa from Calendula and Concrete.


Lynne said...

Oh my god, I'm drooling all over myself!
I love salad, I eat some form of salad almost everyday and this one sounds like it would be one that that I could devour bowls of!

Kalyn said...

I'm so glad you get to cook again. The salad sounds just fantastic.

sher said...

This really sounds fabulous. The cheese, the sugared nuts! Yum!

Anonymous said...

Can you share your balsamic dressing recipe?