Wednesday, January 24, 2007

sweet and spicy candied pecans

a monday salad

We eat salad almost every single night with dinner, but if I told you about all of them, you’d be bored to tears. Ninety percent of the time it is some variation of arugula, radicchio, endive or butter lettuce with a basic vinaigrette. At least in the everyday salad department, I like it simple.

Most of the time. Other times, I am crafting a plan, and Monday night that plan included me avoiding our leftovers by being too full for them. Time for a confession! I’m terrible at eating leftovers. Day old meat has this, I don’t know, musk to it that turns my stomach. I can smell it before I taste it; I can barely choke down two bites. Just about the only foods that I find equally good, if not better in the days that follow are quiches, tarts, soups and legume-full things, like that chili. Unfortunately, on Monday it was just piles of that pappardelle ragu. Alex couldn’t wait to dive into it, but I made us a big, elaborate salad.

Now, I know there is nothing new about endive bulked with arugula, red onion, crumbled blue cheese, apples and toasted nuts but I will argue that this everyday salad warrants mention because I tried a spicy, candied pecan recipe I’ve long had bookmarked and loved it. Toasted spiced nuts are a fairly particular thing; around the holidays you see so many recipes, it’s nearly impossible to see the great ones from the greasy, heavy, oddly-flavored or soggy. In the end, of course, it’s just personal taste that leads you to one over the other and mine is very pleased with the texture and kick of this. Consider it, will you? And let me know if you’ve got a version you swear by.

sweet and spicy candied nuts

Deb’s favorite salad tricks:

  1. Whisk your salad dressing the bottom of the salad bowl that you will use for serving; pile the ingredients on top and toss it when you’re ready to serve to prevent sogginess. I love this because doing everything in-bowl saves dishes, always a plus when you’re hand washing dishes. I saw this trick on the Barefoot Contessa, and have used it ever since.
  2. I love raw onions in my salad but don’t like their bite to be overpowering, so I soak them, already sliced, for a few minutes in cold water and it greatly reduces their sting. The longer you leave them, the more mild they’ll get.
  3. The absolute easiest way to wash greens, especially those inevitably sandy, gritty ones like arugula and bibb lettuces, is to plunge them in a large bowl of very icy water. Swishing them around briefly sends all the sand and grit to the bottom of the bowl. I pick them out, toss them in the spinner and whirl away. I find that well-washed and dried hand-cut lettuce mixes outlast their pre-bagged counterparts by nearly a week.

Sweet and Spicy Candied Pecans
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon (generous) freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray. Combine corn syrup and next 4 ingredients in large bowl. Stir to blend. Add pecans; stir gently to coat. Transfer to baking sheet.

Place large piece of foil on work surface. Bake pecans 5 minutes. Using fork, stir pecans to coat with melted spice mixture. Continue baking until pecans are golden and coating bubbles, about 10 minutes. Transfer to foil. Working quickly, separate nuts with fork. Cool. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)


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