Green Salads | September 11, 2008

Gorgonzola Pecan Crunch Salad with Hazelnut Vinaigrette

Gorgonzola Pecan Crunch Salad with Hazelnut Vinaigrette is the perfect salad for any occasion. Add some chopped chicken and you have a complete meal. My favorite feature of this salad is the caramelized pecans, which are a tiny bit spicy from the light sprinkle of cayenne!

It’s crunch time. Thanksgiving is just a couple weeks away! You have everything figured out- turkey, rolls, mashed potatoes, pies, etc. Do you have a salad to serve? Maybe something fresh to with with leftovers the day after Thanksgiving? Whenever you want to serve it, this gorgonzola pecan crunch salad is your answer. It’s light, fresh, the perfect green salad for turkey day.

I love this salad for so many reasons. One of them is how EASY it is to make. It’s simple to make but rich with delicious flavors. You can even make most of this salad ahead of time and assemble it all before you want to serve it. Just keep everything in separate containers in the fridge (except pecans) and toss with dressing before eating. I’m all about the make-ahead recipes for Thanksgiving. So much to do and so little time!

This Gorgonzola Pecan Crunch Salad with Hazelnut Vinaigrette has sweet, salty, sharp, creamy, and crunchy textures and flavors all mixed together. When I first experimented with this recipe I tried adding the grapes and bacon and loved what they added to the salad. Save some of the chopped bacon and Gorgonzola to crumble on top of the salad after it has been tossed with the dressing. If you’re not familiar with Gorgonzola cheese, here is a little Gorgonzola 101 –

Gorgonzola : Gorgonzola is a traditional, creamery blue cheese. The greenish-blue penicillin mould imparts a sharp, spicy flavor and provides an excellent contrast to the rich, creamy cheese.  Gorgonzola is made in the northern Italian villages, according to which the cheese has its name, either from unpasteurized or pasteurized milk to which the mould is added. At about four weeks the cheeses are pierced with thick needles to encourage the spread of the mould. Gorgonzola ripens in three to six months. The taste ranges from mild to sharp, depending on age. 

Gorgonzola Pecan Crunch Salad with Hazelnut Vinaigrette

Course Salad
Cuisine American
Keyword bacon, gorgonzola, pecan, Salad, thanksgiving
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 7 cups lettuce or mixed greens I like red leaf lettuce best
  • 6-8 oz Gorgonzola cheese crumbled
  • 3/4 lb. bacon cooked until crisp, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. seedless red grapes

Pecan Crunch: (I always double this!)

  • 2/3 cups pecans chopped coarse
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Hazelnut Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice*
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut oil*
  • 1/4 cup light olive oil

Instructions

  1. Wash and dry the lettuce. Combine with chopped bacon and grapes in large bowl. Chill.
  2. Combine pecans with butter, sugar, salt, pepper and cayenne in non stick pan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar caramelizes. Stir often. Pour onto a lightly greased sheet of foil. Let cool completely. Break up pieces by hand or chop on cutting board.

  3. Combine all of the dressing ingredients in bowl, or jar and whisk until well blended. Refrigerate leftover dressing.

Recipe Notes

  • Usually, about half of this dressing is enough for one salad.
  • If you are unable to find hazelnut oil, or can't afford it (it's about $6 for an 8 oz bottle) you may substitute 1/2 cup canola oil and omit the hazelnut and olive oils. When I make this in large quantities-50 servings or more, I always substitute and use Canola oil.
  • I've found the best way to make this dressing is to purchase frozen concentrate oj. Thaw about 2 tablespoons in 1/4 cup of water. Stir and use in dressing. The concentrate mixed with a little water gives the dressing great flavor! 

Need more green salad ideas for Thanksgiving dinner? Try these:

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