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Monday, November 22, 2010

Pecan and Goat Cheese Salad

+ some other salad that doesn't have goat cheese:

I would like to take a moment to apologize for the misused semicolon in the first paragraph of last week's "Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes" post. I'm ashamed I left it squatting there for seventy-two hours before noticing; be assured, it has been dealt with severely for it's impudence. It is just that, sometimes, I really love semicolons. Perhaps too much... Speaking of love, I hope you don't think that I don't adore the second recipe in today's post. I do. I just got so excited about the chance to post some of my favorite things, namely pecans, goat cheese and beets, that I couldn't think of anything remotely catchy to say about a decidedly simple fruit salad. I suppose that is catchy enough: Decidedly Simple Fruit Salad.

Since I can remember, our holiday table has always been graced by the ethereal presence of fruit salad. The recipe, passed down through generations, is much more precious than the simple tag "fruit salad" denotes. You have to marry into the family to even get close to it. Like peanut butter birthday cake, it was the kind of thing I ate secretly in the dark of early morning so I didn't have to feel guilty not sharing it with my roommates. (Sorry roommates) But, since I believe that fruit salad is as necessary and natural as breathing, I have chosen to post two delightful salads here that we can all share in. The first, is a traditional green salad for those of us who crave greens, and a little guiltless pleasure in the midst of trenchers of rich fare. The salad itself can be prepared, but stored separately, the night before:
  • wash and dry the lettuce. Slice the red onion and store with the chopped lettuce the night before, either in a zip lock or an air tight container with a paper towel.
  • Toast the pecans, cooling them and leaving them at room temperature.
  • Drain and slice the beets, and store in the fridge.
  • Measure out your olive oil and apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small jar or Tupperware. Store in the fridge. Just remember to shake before serving.
In fact, allowing your washed and dried lettuce to crisp up in fridge is preferable. The salad is not only delicious, made even more so by the creamy goat cheese and fresh mint, but it creates quite a fuss thanks to its bold presentation and festive color. If you don't like goat cheese (shame on you) you can also substitute in some crumbled Feta cheese, although this will have a sharper, more distinctive bite. I chose to use mandarin oranges for the sheer convenience of not having to peel them, and because we had them on hand. But, you are welcome to substitute fresh navel orange segments or clementines as well.

The second salad is even simpler, and perhaps a little more humble than its counterpart. Tossing sliced, easy to find fruit in a little yogurt and fresh juice brings a much needed brightness to an otherwise starch heavy table. Even picky eaters enjoy the sweet, slightly tangy sauce created by the combination of fruit juice and yogurt. The addition of toasted pecans and plumped, dried cranberries makes it even more delightful. However, I would not suggest making this dish more than two hours before serving, and then I would wait to add the bananas at the last minute. Sprinkling your sliced apples with fresh lemon will buy you a little more time, but not much. Although apples are in season, I suggest using two different varieties to ensure good texture, juiciness and flavor. Because this salad isn't cooked whatever eating apple you like best would be perfect.

Notes on grammar: Some experts believe that semicolons are one of the most daunting punctuation marks in the English language. Here at SPUDS, however, we believe in empowering oneself through technical mastery. Use a semicolon to connect two independent clauses (clauses that can stand alone) that are closely related: I love punctuation; semicolons are one of my favorite punctuation marks.

Pecan and Goat Cheese Salad
Variation on two salads: this by Real Simple and that by Rachael Ray
Serves 4-6

3 hearts of romaine, washed and dried
1 medium red onion
1/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can of sliced beets
1 (15 ounce) mandarin orange segments
2-3 ounces crumbled goat cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon each salt, fresh black pepper

1. Chop the lettuce and add to a large bowl.
2. Peel and thinly slice half of the red onion, adding to the lettuce.
3. Drain the beets and mandarin orange segments. Add the orange to the onion and lettuce. Stack a few beets, one on top of the other, and slice into matchsticks. Stack on top of the orange segments.
4. Shake the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small jar or Tupperware container until combined.
5. Just before serving add the toasted pecans and crumbled goat cheese. Pour dressing over the greens and serve.

Decidedly Simple Fruit Salad
Adapted from Kraft Healthy Living
Serves 4

1 cup vanilla yogurt (low-fat is fine)
1/3 cup orange juice
2 medium apples, Fuji and Macintosh are good
lemon juice
2 cups grapes
2 bananas, sliced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

1. Whisk the yogurt and orange juice in a bowl until combined.
2. Chop the apples into bite sized pieces and sprinkle with a little lemon juice. Split the grapes in half and add to the apples and yogurt.
3. Microwave the cranberries in a little water for 1-1 1/2 minutes and let sit until cooled, allowing them to plump up a little.
4. Add the cranberries to the rest of the salad, along with the bananas and pecans. Toss to coat and serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers.

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