|These are not actually Balsamic Walnuts (I ate them all before taking the pic!!!)|
On my lazy days, I whack up a few leave of romaine lettuce, send them for a ride through my spinner, drizzle on a simple homemade vinaigrette and dig in. When I am creating a special dinner experience, I will go all the way, preparing balsamic glazed walnuts and a sweet and tangy dressing with either fresh sliced strawberries in season, or dried sweetened cranberries during the colder months. The combination of crisp greens (especially the really intense ones like arugula), crunchy candied walnuts and sweet but tangy dressing hits all the right notes.
Here is my recipe for Strawberry Fields Salad, the perfect fit for your most elegant dinner party.
Strawberry Fields Salad
Serves: 4 to 6
Ingredients for balsamic walnuts:
4 Tbs. sugar
4 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 cup walnut halves
Ingredients for salad:
2 Tbs. strawberry preserves or jam
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
mixed field greens or other salad
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil. Heat sugar, 4 tablespoons balsamic and walnuts in a large frying pan over medium heat. Stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, simmer until balsamic is nearly evaporated and nuts are well coated. Working quickly, pour the walnut mixture onto the lined baking pan. Using two forks, separate the individual nuts. (Be careful as the walnuts are wicked hot!) Bake in 350° oven for about 5 minutes until light brown. Allow to cool completely at room temperature then break the pieces apart with your fingers.
In blender container or with stick blender, combine strawberry preserves or jam with 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Stream in the olive oil, a little at a time until an emulsion forms. Set aside. When ready to serve, arrange salad greens in a large bowl or platter. Scatter strawberry slices over salad, drizzle with dressing and garnish with the balsamic walnuts.
Notes & Pointers:
Watch the nuts carefully both while simmering in the frying pan and baking in the oven. The high sugar content makes them go from golden brown to burnt in moments. Also be very careful not to touch them until they are completely cool. Caramelized sugar can cause a nasty burn! The walnuts can be made a couple of days before you serve, just be sure to keep them at room temperature in an airtight container. Because of the sugar content, they will draw moisture from the air and get sticky if the container is not well sealed.
When strawberries are out of season, this is also delicious made with cranberries. Use whole berry cranberry sauce instead of strawberry preserves in the dressing and serve with sweetened dried cranberries instead of the strawberries.