Pecan and Mandarin Orange Salad

Pecans are found all over the South, including Louisiana. A side of fresh salad greens with toasted pecans and mandarin oranges is a delicious way to cool the heat of Cajun cuisine. A version of this salad can be found at many Louisiana restaurants. Northern cooks would use white sugar in the dressing, but Louisiana cooks add dark brown sugar, giving it a darker, smokier and more mysterious flavor.

1/2 cup pecans
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 bag salad greens
1 can mandarin oranges, drained

Toast pecans on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk shallots, garlic, vinegar, brown sugar, dry mustard, salt and pepper. Add oil slowly, whisking constantly.

Divide salad greens among 4 plates. Top with pecans and mandarin oranges.

Gary – Enhance the cooling effect of the salad by enjoying a softly sweet white with firm acidity to stand up to the astringency in the greens, the intensity of the balsamic vinegar and the sweetness of the brown sugar.

A Kabinett or Spätlese Riesling with its yin/yang of acidity and sweetness would be lovely with this salad, and also echo some of the character of the mandarin oranges. Chenin Blanc/Vouvray in a lightly sweet style would be an ideal partner as would a sparkling wine with a hint of sweetness.

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