This is a fun festive salad. The red craisins are pretty and stand out, but they do have added sugar so if you really want to avoid that you could use raisins instead…it just won’t be as stand-outish as the red craisins.
There are several things you can do earlier on in the day when you have time, or even a couple of days before hand to make this salad really quick and easy to throw together. I like to make candied pecans in the oven using maple syrup and store them in an airtight container so they are ready for later use. They’ll last at least several weeks, maybe longer.
The vinaigrette salad dressing is another thing you could prepare a week ahead of time and store it in your fridge. The morning/afternoon of, you could chop your apples and soak them in orange juice and wash and chop your lettuce.
Then when dinner rolls around and you’re ready for your salad, just throw all the ingredients in a large dish, toss them together and it’s ready to go and looks beautiful!
Candied Walnut Salad with Honey Red Wine Vinaigrette
2 heads of leafy greens; 1 can be a bag of spinach (I like 1 bag of spinach and a head of Romaine or just 2 heads of Romaine)
3/4 c. Craisins
2 crisp apples
1 Tbsp Orange juice (just enough to toss apples in to prevent browning and add a little flavor)
2 oz. blue cheese or Gorgonzola or Feta
1/2 c. chopped candied pecans or walnuts (if you don’t have any on hand and need something quick, you can throw the raw nuts in a pan on the stove with 1/4c evaporated cane juice or other granulated sugar and cook on medium heat until the sugar liquifys and then coats the nuts.)
1 recipe Honey Red Wine Vinaigrette
Wash and chop lettuce and set aside. Measure out craisins or raisins and candied nuts and set aside. If you don’t have candied nuts already made you can make them in about 5 minutes by combining 1/2 c nuts and 1/4 c sugar in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly. After a few minutes, the sugar will look very fine and then a few minutes after that, it will start to liquefy. Be sure to stir around really well at this point. The syrup will begin to darken and will coat the nuts. When they reach a golden brown color, remove from heat. Stir occasionally as the nuts begin to cool. Allow to cool completely in the pan or in a bowl.
Chop blue cheese or Gorgonzola very finely. You want crumbles, not chunks. Feta works too if you don’t like those cheeses.
Chop apples and toss in orange juice
When ready to serve, toss lettuce, cranberries, nuts, apples, and blue cheese in a large bowl. Unless serving this at a large social event, you may want to serve the dressing on the side and drizzle on individual salads because if you have leftovers covered in salad dressing the lettuce will wilt.
Honey Red Wine Vinaigrette
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. honey
1-2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (really, that’s pretty optional; it all goes in the blender)
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 c. olive oil or grapeseed oil
In a blender, combine vinegar, honey, garlic, salt, and pepper. Place lid on blender and blend on high. While blender is running, add oil in a steady stream. Store in refrigerator for about 2-3 weeks. Shake well before serving.