Every once in a while, you stumble across a combination that is not just incredible…it borders on divine. Such is the case with the blend of spices that we incorporate into today’s salad – cardamom and cloves. Used in both the honey-candied coating on our pecans and in the zippy rice vinegar and shallot dressing, these two spices came together in a way that almost escapes words. Really, the only way to truly appreciate them together is to grab a jar of each, spin off the tops, and let their blended aroma fill your senses.
- 1/2 lb fresh baby spinach leaves
- 2 firm-ripe anjou pears, cored and sliced thinly
- 1/2 shallot bulb, minced (about 1/4 cup)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 4 tbsp honey
- 1/2 tsp sea salt, divided
- 1/2 tsp caradmom seeds, divided
- 4 whole cloves, divided
- bold pinch cayenne pepper (about 1/8 tsp)
Preheat the oven to 350 degress. Next up, you need to grind the cloves and cardamom. You can use a dedicated coffee grinder if you like, but my preference (especially for such small quantities) is to use a small mortar and pestle. With a little practice, you can get the job done just as quickly as with a coffee grinder, and with less waste and mess (in my opinion at least). Not to mention you get to enjoy the incredible aroma of the herbs or spices you are grinding while you’re doing it. Did I mention that cloves and cardamom together are incredible?
When the two spices are ground fine, combine them with the sea salt, then separate into two equal amounts. Put half into a medium mixing bowl, then add the cayenne pepper and honey and mix well. Stir in the pecans and coat well. Spread a piece of parchment paper over a large baking pan or rimmed cookie sheet and spread the nuts out onto the paper.
Bake the pecans for about 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to keep them coated in the honey-spice mixture. When they’ve turned a deep golden brown, remove from the oven and transfer the paper to a thick wood cutting board. Let them cool, breaking them up after a few minutes once the coating has started to harden. When they are fully cool, break them up even more if needed…and resist the urge to just sit and eat this pile of delicious buttery-citrusy tasting nuts with just the faintest touch of heat from the cayenne.
While the nuts are cooling, whisk together the olive oil, rice vinegar, minced shallots, and reserved cardamom/cloves/salt blend. Set aside, whisking again every so often to keep things mixed up well.
In that extra big stainless bowl you’ve got, combine the spinach, pear slices, and now-cooled pecans. Toss to combine well, making sure to separate all of the pieces of pear, which want to stick together in big clumps no matter how hard you toss them around. You may want to consider “dealing” the pear slices into the salad like a deck of playing cards, as it seems the only way to physically keep them separated from each other.
Finally, drizzle the dressing over everything (after giving it one last whisking) and toss to coat the salad ingredients evenly. Serve this along side some grilled chicken or a cedar-planked salmon fillet with a squeeze of lemon. And try to refrain from going back for thirds (seconds are a given with this tasty treat)…so that you have a little bit left for lunch the next day!