Salads with nuts and feta are common on menus nowadays, but when we first started making it in 1990, it was unusual. It quickly became a favorite, especially in the fall when crisp apples and pears are in season. It's one of my go-to recipes. Works well for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. And for taking to potluck dinners.
This weekend I made it to go with Tom's Graduate School Chicken. I just toasted a blend of pecans and hazelnuts, instead of spicing them, since we were serving 2-year-old Grace.
Here's the original recipe, and my notes:
-- I use pear more frequently than apple.
-- I toast my pecans in the toaster oven, and skip the butter.
-- Salt and pepper your lettuces directly, not the dressing.
The quality of the ingredients you choose can make it extraordinary: French feta (versus Greek) is so good! Find the best lettuces you can, and be sure your nuts are fresh.
Use the best olive oil you can, real Dijon mustard, real Sherry vinegar (not cooking wine), and don't go overboard with your shallot if it is a smelly one. Sometimes I just eliminate the shallot completely if it is going to dominate the salad.
Feta, Apple and Spiced Pecan Salad
from Bon Appetit magazine, August, 1990
2 T. Sherry wine vinegar
1 T plus 1 t. Dijon mustard
1/2 c. olive oil
salt and pepper, freshly ground
equivalent of 2 heads of lettuce, washed, and torn into bite size pieces (Boston, red leaf, etc.)
spiced pecans (see recipe below)
1 Red Delicious apples, finely chopped
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
Mix vinegar and mustard in large bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season with salt & pepper. Add the lettuces, and toss to coat. Sprinkle pecans, apples and cheese over the salad and serve.
Makes about 1 2/3 cups
3 T. unsalted butter
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
dash of hot pepper sauce (Tabasco)
1 2/3 cups whole or halves pecans (about 6 ounces)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Melt butter in heavy, small saucepan over low heat. Mix in salt, cinnamon, cayenne, and hot pepper sauce. Place pecans in medium blow. Pour butter mixture over; toss thoroughly. Spread out nuts on heavy large cookie sheet. Bake until crisp, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.