Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cranberry-Avocado Salad with Sweet White Balsamic Vinaigrette

I think Gerry's favorite thing to have for lunch is a nice big salad and now that the weather is getting warmer, I find myself looking forward to a salad as well. I can't get myself to eat a salad as a meal in winter simply because it makes me too cold. I don't know if anyone else is affected this way, but I know this to be true for me. I do love a good salad when the weather permits it however.

I chose this one to kick off the warm weather salad lunches simply because it is a very simple salad consisting of baby spinach, fresh parsley leaves, dried cranberries, sliced avocado, and some Candied Spiced Almonds. The dressing had a far number of ingredients and used white balsamic vinegar which was the one ingredient I had to go out and buy.

This salad was fabulous and I highly recommend it when you are tired of your usual salad and want to try something new.

Cranberry-Avocado Salad with Sweet White Balsamic Vinaigrette
(6 entree salads or 8 side salads)

For the Dressing:
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons dried mustard
1 tablespoon sweet onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the Salad:
12 ounces baby spinach
1 small bunch parsley, washed and dried, leaves removed whole from stems
2 medium avocados, peeled and halved
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup Candied Spiced Almonds (Recipe follows)

For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a pint sized glass jar and shake well to dissolve sugar.

For the salad, place greens and parsley leaves in a large bowl. Add avocado and dried cranberries and about 1/4 cup of the dressing and toss gently. Scatter candied almonds over salad and sprinkle lightly with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pass extra dressing at the table.

Candied Spiced Almonds

2 1/2 cups sliced almonds (1/2 pound)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons butter (or butter substitute)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
sea salt, for finishing

Place a large sheet of foil on a work surface. spray with cooking spray or rub a teaspoon of oil over foil with a paper towel.

Place sugar in a large non-stick saute pan and heat over medium heat, occasionally tipping and swirling the sugar until it is all melted into a pale golden syrup.

Lower heat immediately and add butter, cinnamon, smoked paprika and vanilla. Stir until well combined and all the butter is incorporated into the sugar syrup.

Add the nuts and stir gently to coat. Don't worry if you have some clumps of caramelized sugar - they will melt as you continue to saute the almonds. Cover and continue to cook on low, stirring every minute or so, until almonds are a delicious golden brown. Watch very carefully as they can go from beautiful to burned very quickly! Turn out onto prepared foil and sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Spread on foil to cool.

Adapted from The Cafe Sucre Farine Blog

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