I'm not usually a "salad for dinner" kind of girl. But when summer hits full boil here in Phoenix, salad recipes are all I can think about. Salads are quick, easy and there are no rules to follow; you just throw in what ever sounds good at the time. This Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad with Candied Walnuts is not only what sounds good this time, but it's all I have this time.
Apparently, I didn't do that great of a job shopping before I went into the hospital for knee surgery. I found a strange collection of ingredients in the fridge when I got home: left over pizza, dried out chicken nuggets and really smelly chinese food. All signs that my family survived any way they could... by eating take-out. The big bag of salad greens I purchased is still sitting there, looking a little sad. I must have been under the influence of pre-surgery medication when I bought it. I had these images of my husband sitting around, munching on salad and marveling at its crisp, summery, freshness while I was in the hospital eating reconstituted beef bullion and rubberized pork chops.
However, there is a big patch of really fresh strawberries in the fridge that wasn't there before. He probably picked them up at the grocery store on one of his "emergency runs" for ice cream (the evidence is in the trash can). So, I mixed the strawberries and bag of greens with creamy goat cheese from the fridge (every Southwest cook has goat cheese in the fridge) and candied walnuts from the pantry for a fresh summery salad that made me feel so happy to be home.
Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad with Candied Walnuts
4 to 6 cups fresh spinach leaves
¼ cup balsamic vinaigrette
1 pint fresh strawberries
8 oz goat cheese (I like Laura Chenel, but you can use your favorite)
1 cup candied walnuts (recipe follows)
Rinse spinach and spin or pat dry. Remove stems from strawberries and cut into quarters. Toss spinach and strawberries with vinaigrette a tablespoon or two at a time so that it doesn't become "over dressed".
Plate the spinach and strawberries. Crumble the goat cheese evenly over the salad and sprinkle with the candied walnuts.
This is the recipe I used to candy the walnuts. I like it because the walnuts turn out crunchy with a lightly sweet taste, but not too sticky like many of the recipes that caramelize the nuts. It is also a good way to use left over egg whites.
2 ½ cups walnuts
1 large egg white, beaten by hand
¼ cup granulated sugar or super fine sugar (not powdered sugar)
½ teaspoon salt
Toss the walnuts in the beaten egg white.
Add the salt to the sugar and mix well with a fork. Sprinkle sugar mixture over the walnuts and stir until evenly coated.
Spread walnuts onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Separate the nuts as well as you can.
Bake for about 30 minutes. Every oven is different, so be sure to check them sooner. Nuts burn easily.
Remove from oven and lift the parchment paper off the baking sheet and onto a cooling rack to allow the nuts to cool.
I've been searching the web for other things to do with goat cheese and have put these recipes on my "wish list."
-posted by Sandy