Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Strawberry and Feta Salad with Sweet and Spicy Pecans and Balsamic Vinaigrette

I started making this salad in early spring and it has become one of our absolute favorites! And let me please note that my husband, a self-proclaimed "meat-a-tarian," does not and I repeat, does not consider salad as a meal, but he LOVES this salad and so will you! It is great as a main dish, but you can easily ditch the chicken and make it as a side salad or serve it at a party with the dressing on the side so it doesn't get soggy.

We're a bit on the tail end of strawberry season, so I probably should have posted this when I originally made it, but oh well! You can still easily find strawberries for a good price so don't worry about that! Considering I have made this salad probably every week since I first made it up, I really don't know why I am just now posting it. I clearly dropped the ball! :)

1/2 c balsamic vinegar
3 T Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, minced
About one cup of extra virgin olive oil

Whisk the balsamic, mustard, garlic and salt and pepper in a small bowl. While continuously whisking with one hand, very very slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl. It is important to continue whisking and drizzle as slowly as possible so that the dressing will emulsify and not separate on you. If it easier for you, you can easily do this in the blender, drizzling the olive oil through the top opening. Chill the vinaigrette until you are ready to assemble the salad.

1 c water
1/4 c sugar or Splenda*
1 cup pecan halves
3 T sugar or Splenda
1 T chili powder
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 t cajun seasoning

Preheat the oven to 350. Microwave the water in a microwave safe bowl until the water boils. Remove from microwave and dissolve the fourth cup of sugar in the water. Soak the pecans in the sugar water for about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the remaining sugar, chili powder, cayenne and cajun seasoning in a plastic baggie. Drain the pecans and toss in the sugar mixture to coat. Spread onto a foil lined baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes. Immediately spread the pecans onto wax paper to cool. Do NOT let them sit or the sugar will harden and all the pecans will stick together!

3-4 chicken breasts
Garlic Powder
3 hearts of Romaine, rinsed and torn into bite sized pieces
4 oz. feta crumbles
1 carton of strawberries, rinsed and sliced

Heat grill to medium high heat. Season chicken on both sides with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Grill chicken breasts until cooked through, about 7-10 minutes on each side depending on size. Remove from grill, cool and cut into strips or bit sized pieces.

In a large bowl, toss lettuce with desired amount of dressing. Add strawberries, feta and pecans, tossing gently. Serve with chicken on top.

Serves 4, as a main course.

I hope you enjoy this fresh and delicious salad as much as we do!

*I have tried the pecans with Splenda but they do not turn out as sweet or crunchy.

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