Saturday, February 12, 2011

Candied Orange and Walnut Salad with Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette

Look at all the beautiful colors and textures in this salad!

Do you see how the candied oranges glisten like stained glass?

And the candied walnuts?  Crunchy, tantalizingly spicy and sweet and to die for.  If you're not into spicy, watch out and suggest you reduce the level of peppers used or omit it all together.  Personally I loved the surprise little kick to these crazy nuts :).

You may be asking yourself right now what's up with all of the candied stuff.  Well, for our recent Dinner Club our hosts Sig and Kristen chose the theme of candy.  Sweet, sweet sugary candy.  Wanting to be up for a challenge, I chose to bring something from the salad/vegetable category.

Yes, this certainly stretched our culinary imaginations to the fullest.  Emily and Scott chose to serve GUMMY BEAR kiwi wontons with blackberry dipping sauce as our starter.  Surprisingly this was quite delicious and if I wasn't told there were gummy bears inside I don't think I would have known any better.  We joked that they were filled with Gummiberry Juice as the sugar started coursing through our veins and we got a bit bouncy from the extra energy.  But we were just getting started because then came my salad, Kemani and Toni's delightful homemade raviolis filled with cocoa encrusted pork and topped with a white chocolate alfredo sauce, Kristen and Sig's peanut butter cup chicken and lemonhead chicken along with caramel, oreo cookie, and chocolate filled croissants, and lastly, Jackie and Jeff's peanut butter cup cupcakes and lemon pop rock cupcakes.

Caramel croissant, gummy bear kiwi wontons, homemade ravioli with white chocolate alfredo sauce, and peanut butter cup cupcakes.  Photo credit: Emily H.

The sugar rush that followed?  OH. MY. GOD.  Let's just say it's a good thing our hosts had very fun Minute to Win It games to help us expend all of our energy before we subsequently crashed.

Minute to Win It games to burn off all of dinner's sugar: Candy Land Card Flip, Bolt Stacking, Football Roll, and Licorice jump roping.  Photo credit: Emily H.

This salad not only looked beautiful but it tasted really good too.  Kemani said that it was just like the salad at  Dewey's.  Wow what a complement!  I was very pleased with how it turned out and I know I'll be making the candied nuts again for snacking.  The oranges tasted just like those fruit slices so Chris really enjoyed them (it's his favorite flavor).  Though, you can also candy other citrus like lemons and grapefruits, if you prefer.  And then the dressing?  Delicious.  Will make again, too.

So serve up this sweet salad for your sweetie on Valentine's Day.  You'll thank me later :).

Looking for more Valentine's Day Ideas? It seems that the clear favorite on my site are these Heart-shaped Red Velvet Whoopie Pies but the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles will be the way to a chocolate lover's heart.  But if you want a full meal, try this Linguine with Clam Sauce.  Not only is it delicious but it's simple and I hear that clams are an aphrodisiac.  Ooh la la!

Candied Orange and Walnut Salad with Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette
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Photo Credit: Emily H.

Yields: 2 entree-sized or 4 starter-sized salads

  • 2 large handfuls of baby salad greens
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 to 1/2 candied spiced walnuts (recipe to follow)
  • candied oranges (recipe to follow)
  • orange balsamic vinaigrette (recipe to follow)
For the candied spiced walnuts 
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon chipotle, ancho, or cayenne chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 heaping cup walnuts (or can use pecans)
For the candied oranges
  • 2 organic oranges, washed (can also use lemons or grapefruit)
  • Water for boiling
  • Ice water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
For the orange balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1/4 small sweet onion such as Vidalia
  • Zest of 1 large orange (preferably organic)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 Tablespoon orange marmalade or undiluted frozen orange juice
  • 6 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 12 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  1. Allow at least 24 hours to make the candied oranges since they need ample drying time.  To make the candied oranges, cut the oranges into thin slices (not too thin or else they tear apart too easily) removing the ends and any seeds. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan and blanch the orange slices for about a minute. Drain the orange slices and plunge them into a bath of ice water. Drain. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and 1 cup of water in a large saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a simmer and add the orange slices. Let simmer (don’t boil) for an hour (you can simmer as much as 2 hours). Remove slices from hot sugar syrup and set on a cooling rack over a baking sheet to dry. Take up to 24 hours to dry.
  2. To make the vinaigrette, in a blender or food processor, puree the onion, orange zest, garlic, and orange marmalade.  Add the vinegar, olive oil, and salt then blend to emulsify.  Taste and balance sweetness (add a pinch of sugar, the syrup from the candied orange slices, or more marmalade), acidity (add a few more drops of vinegar), and salt.  Pour vinaigrette into a squeeze bottle.  Cap and refrigerate.  Can be made a day ahead.
  3. To make the candied walnuts, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a medium-sized bowl, mix together sugar, chili powder, and salt.  Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil.  Add nuts and boil for 3 minutes (if using pecans, boil only for 15 seconds).  Drain the nuts well then shake in bag of sugar mixture until thoroughly coated.  The sugar will melt slightly.  Transfer the nuts to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.  Bake until they are a deep golden brown, turning halfway through baking, about 15 minutes. Watch closely because the sugar burns easily.  Cool completely and then store in a air-tight container until ready to use.
  4. When ready to serve, in a large mixing bowl, toss salad greens and 1/2 to 3/4 of the dried cranberries, feta cheese, and walnuts with enough of the vinaigrette to coat each leaf.  You will likely have vinaigrette leftover for a couple more salads later.
  5. Arrange the dressed salad in the middle of the salad plate.  Finish the salads by garnishing with remaining dried cranberries, feta cheese, walnuts, and candied orange slices.
Source: A Christine's Kitchen Chronicles original with inspiration from many sources.  Candied walnuts, salad dressing, and salad concept adapted from Luna Cafe.  Candied orange slices slightly modified from Use Real Butter as originally adapted from Martha Stewart and Culinary School of the Rockies.

1 comment:

Yasmine said...

Looks amazing, love all the ingredients...just added this recipe to my menu for the next week!