Friday, March 27, 2015

Fig, Pear, and Goat Cheese Salad with Toasted Cinnamon-Pecan Vinaigrette


Have you ever had a really unforgettable meal at a restaurant, then gone back anticipating having it again, only to find it's been taken off the menu? Or worse yet, that the recipe's been changed and what you order is not nearly as delicious as what you remember? There's a popular restaurant in Phoenix called La Grande Orange I've been to only a couple of times and enjoyed. Once I got a salad there with a truly spectacular pecan vinaigrette. While nuts have been growing on me for the last few years (you know, figuratively, not literally), I have historically not been their biggest fan. This dressing, though, was a revelation. Sweet, rich, and complex--this dressing probably gets alllll the ladies. I've thought about it frequently since our last visit to La Grande Orange. Imagine my disappointment, then, looking up the LGO menu recently and not seeing it listed! 

Well, I couldn't let it go at that. I had to at least Google and tinker around to try to recreate a version of it (if not call LGO's chef and tearfully beg for the recipe). The dressing on this salad is the result. Since I don't actually remember LGO's salad itself, just the vinaigrette, I chose ingredients I tend to like with sweet dressings: dried figs, pear slices, goat cheese, and arugula for a little spicy kick. I must say the whole picture of flavors came together dee-liciously. I might have even liked my homemade pecan vinaigrette with its touch of cinnamon even better than the restaurant version, if you can believe it. So here it is, the salad with the  most delicious vinaigrette ever--and possibly the longest name ever. If this were in a cookbook, I'm pretty sure my editor would make me cut some words out of its 11-word title. 



Fig, Pear, and Goat Cheese Salad with Toasted Cinnamon-Pecan Vinaigrette
(Dressing adapted from Food.com)

Ingredients:

Salad:

8 c. arugula
4 oz. crumbled goat cheese
1 ripe pear, thinly sliced
4 oz. dried figs, sliced in half

Dressing:

1 c. chopped pecans
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Cinnamon, to taste
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. honey
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar

Directions:

1. Assemble salad ingredients on a platter or in a large bowl.

2. Toast the pecans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread chopped pecans on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the 1 Tbsp. olive oil and sprinkle cinnamon over top. Bake 3-5 minutes, checking at 3 minutes for doneness. The nuts should look dark brown but not burnt.

3. To make vinaigrette, whisk together Dijon and honey. Slowly whisk in olive oil, then balsamic vinegar. Stir in cooled toasted pecans. If you like a more emulsified texture, give the whole thing a few pulses with an immersion blender.

4. Toss salad with pecan vinaigrette, or serve on the side.

Serves 4.


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