With an easy, sweet, tangy dressing and a topping of caramelized pecans, this delicious, fresh salad will add a splash of pizzazz to any meal.
Back in February, we experienced almost a whole month of unseasonably warm weather and thought (foolishly), that spring had decided to arrive in North Carolina prematurely. In the midst of all the warm, sunny days, Scott developed a case of spring fever and planted a plethora of lettuces with leaves in every shape and color. All the little plants were thriving in pots on the deck as well as in pretty rows in his raised beds. Sadly, there was as sudden cold snap and several weeks of record cold temperatures ensued.
I'm happy to report that, with a bit of babying (carefully covering the tender plants at night), we're currently experiencing a wonderful harvest of delicious fresh greens, and have been enjoying lots of salads. I've made this Strawberry Clementine Salad with Red Wine Vinegar Dressing frequently over the last few weeks and thought you might enjoy it as much as we have.
I love that this salad is a "merging" of winter and spring produce. It incorporates the colder season's citrus as well as strawberries which, though nowadays are available all year round, are definitely the "darlings" of spring and summer.
In addition to clementine slices and strawberries, I also added a handful of pickled red onions. This delicious condiment can be made in minutes and adds lots of flavor, as well as ribbons of magenta, to this pretty salad. You'll almost always find a jar of these "Quickles", as we like to call them, in my refrigerator as they are also wonderful on sandwiches, pizzas, enchiladas, tacos...
The dressing is an old time favorite that I've lightened up a bit. It's got a short cast of characters; a simple combination of red wine vinegar, garlic, sugar, sunflower oil, salt and pepper. Just shake it all up in a jar and you're ready to roll. I love to keep a supply of this in the refridg too. It makes whipping up a delicious salad super easy, and goes well with so many greens.
And speaking of greens, just use the freshest greens you can find for this salad. I used a crisp, red leaf artisan lettuce, but spring greens, mesclun mix, baby spinach or arugula would also be wonderful. If you go to the market with a certain type of lettuce on your list, there's a good chance you'll be disappointed with the selection (I often am). Just look at what else is available and pick out the prettiest, freshest greens they have. Your finished salad might not be exactly as you envisioned, but it will be delicious and way better than if the greens are wilty and on their way out!
Don't skip the caramelized pecans! These beauties can be made in a small skillet on the stovetop in less that 5 minutes! They add a delicious sweet crunch and are a really nice compliment to the tangy dressing.
A few things I use to make and serve this salad:
For your Pinning pleasure:
- For the quick pickled red onions:
- ¾ cup white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ medium red onion peeled and thinly sliced
- For the caramelized pecans;
- ¾ cup pecan halves
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- For the dressing:
- 1 medium garlic finely minced
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ½ cup sunflower oil or your favorite mild flavored oil
- 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- For the salad:
- 8 cups torn crisp red leaf lettuce
- 4 medium clementines peeled, haved and sliced
- 10 medium strawberries quartered
For the pickled red onions, combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a pint size jar. Stir well to dissolve sugar and salt. Add sliced onions and add enough water to cover the onions. Cover tightly and gently shake the jar. Set aside for at least 15 minutes while preparing nuts and the rest of the salad.
For the caramelized pecans, place a sheet of parchment paper on a work surface*. Combine pecans, sugar, butter and salt in a medium size non-stick skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring continually with a heat resistant spatula, until sugar and butter are completely melted and coat the pecans. Pecans should be a nice golden brown. Watch carefully at the end so they don’t burn. Turn pecans out onto parchment paper*. Spread apart with spatula and allow to cool
For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a jar and shake until sugar is dissolved.
For the salad, place greens in a large bowl and drizzle lightly with the dressing. Toss to coat leaves with dressing. Transfer greens to a large platter or individual salad plates. Top with strawberries, clementine slices and pickled red onion slices. Drizzle with a tiny bit more dressing. Top with cooled pecans and a generous grind of black pepper. Serve extra dressing at the table.
* I love these parchment paper sheets. They're precut to fit a standard sheet pan and a box lasts forever. Even for a crazy cook like me!