I have my friend Courtney Mertens to thank for this jewel. She makes it often, although she uses a different dressing. I couldn’t find the cookbook that contained the dressing recipe so I had to improvise. I like this dressing a great deal though, and I love using honey in my…well, everything. So this suits me well. Upon researching this salad, I found about fifty different versions, each varying only in the dressing. But most used sugar in the dressing and I opted for this slightly different approach. It also allows me to use some of my Homemade Whole Grain Mustard.
This recipe should be titled the “Your Children Will Eat This Spinach Salad Salad.” It is so sweet with the strawberries and honey. The salt and pepper pecans add a great bit of savory and spice. I have made it with feta (as shown in the photos) but I vastly prefer the blue cheese. Both are good. And both of my children ate both versions.
We ate this last night with just a roasted sweet potato to accompany it and it made a great meal, and probably one of the healthier meals we’ve had lately. Let’s just say that I need to enter a green phase for a while…after I make a triple layer chocolate cake for Ford’s birthday tomorrow. Not before that.
2 cups pecan halves
1 egg, white only
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
6 ounces baby spinach
6 to 8 medium strawberries, sliced
4 ounces blue cheese crumbles (or feta)
¼ red onion, sliced thinly, rinsed under cold water and drained
1) Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the sugar and spices in a gallon size resealable plastic bag. In a small bowl, whip the egg white till it is white and frothy. Place the pecans into the egg whites and toss them with a slotted spoon until they are coated. Use the slotted spoon to transfer the eggy pecans to the bag containing the spices, without transferring excess egg. Seal the bag and shake it until the pecans are evenly coated. Place the coated pecans onto a cookie sheet lined with a silicone baking sheet and spread them out. Bake for 25 minutes, removing them at the 15 minute mark to redistribute them with a spatula. When done, remove them from the oven and loosen them from the baking sheet with a spatula. Allow them to cool.
2) Meanwhile, in a small bowl or lidded jar, combine the oil, white wine vinegar, honey, and whole grain mustard. Whisk or shake to combine.
3) Place the spinach, sliced strawberries, cheese and red onions in a large serving bowl. Toss with the salad dressing (you may not need all of it). Top with the seasoned pecans. Serve.
Notes: Courtney’s version is from the Gourmet Our Way Cookbook. It is a Tulsa community cookbook by the Cascia Hall Preparatory School. It is a sugar based dressing and it is great. I’ve made it both ways now and I’m a fan of both. This dressing recipe is about twice as much as you will need for my amount of salad, but if you’d like to try a dressing that is more traditional for this potluck favorite salad, here it is: Mix in a jar ½ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, 1½ teaspoons minced onions, ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, ¼ teaspoon paprika, ½ cup white wine vinegar and ½ cup vegetable oil.
Also, two cups of pecans is an amount that accounts for the fact that I eat about 1/2 cup of the spiced pecans before they ever make it to the salad bowl. Feel free to adjust this measure down, or to snack along with me.
[Left: Ford showing off his Lego sword and looking fierce. If a kid makes the mistake of being cute while I'm taking food photos...they are fair game, right? And to the right of Ford: a great salad and the prettiest salad servers in the world.]