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Spinach Salad with Bacon, Blue Cheese, Pecans, and Cranberries

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Editor's Note: An understated spinach salad with cranberries is one thing, but what about a spinach salad that features an assortment of flavors? In this recipe for Spinach Salad with Bacon, Blue Cheese, Pecans, and Cranberries, you'll create a salad that has some heat, as well as sharp and tart flavors. The result is a salad that's levels above a standard salad with lettuce, cucumber, and tomato. This easy salad recipe will be the perfect addition to almost any meal, so consider serving it for dinner with your family or bring it with the next time you have a picnic with your friends.

Gina: Ours is a spinach salad with some serious attitude. In addition to the bacon and creamy blue-cheese dressing, we add sweetened pecans and tart dried cranberries, and the overall effect is to give this salad a festive feel. It’s a great dinner-party starter, and it’s especially good partnered with a fat grilled steak. The spiced pecans are good enough to eat on their own as a snack, but try to save them for the salad! And even though we call for dried cranberries, you can substitute a variety of dried fruit, including dried cherries or golden raisins.

Serves4

CostModerate

Easy

Total Timeunder 1 hour

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionBuffet, Buffet Meal, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get Together

Recipe CourseAppetizer

MealDinner, Lunch

Taste and TextureCheesy, Sharp, Spiced, Sweet

Type of DishSalad, Vegetable

Ingredients

  • ½ pound thick-sliced bacon strips, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 4 ounces Danish blue cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • Dash hot sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • One 12-ounce package baby spinach leaves
  • ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 recipe Spiced Pecans (recipe follows)
  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • ¼ cup light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup pecans
  • Pinch cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until brown and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chopped bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, and set aside to cool.

  2. To make the dressing, use a fork to mash the blue cheese in a medium bowl. Whisk in the buttermilk, sour cream, hot sauce, and salt and pepper to taste.

  3. To make the spiced pecans, place a 12-inch square of foil on a baking sheet, and spray the foil with nonstick vegetable spray. Heat the brown sugar, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar melts and the mixture bubbles. Add the pecans and the cayenne, and stir until the nuts are well coated. Transfer the nuts to the foil, spreading them out, and allow them to cool completely (they will harden and dry).

  4. Combine the baby spinach, red onion, dried cranberries, bacon, and spiced pecans in a large bowl. Toss the salad with the creamy blue-cheese dressing just before serving.


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