Guys, I've been putting off buying strawberries for weeks. I've seen them at the store, over-priced and under-ripe, and I've been patiently waiting until the start of spring when their price drops and their quality skyrockets and all is well in the world. Woohoo it's here! I celebrated by taking myself to the farmer's market and splurging on a giant crate of them.
With Easter Sunday days away I figured I'd make something light yet festive. Also I've noticed my recipes have gotten a bit involved lately and I think we're overdue for something simple. There is nothing wrong with simple, people. So we're celebrating spring with strawberries, goat cheese, spinach, and maple buttered pecans.
Did you catch that last part? These pecans are deadly good. It was my first time making my own candied pecans (store-bought can get $$$) and after a couple of texts back and forth with my mom and some Pinterest research we went simple with just butter, maple syrup, and salt stewed up all nice and cozy on a sheet pan with a big bag of raw pecan halves and slow-roasted them in the oven.
Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad with Maple Buttered Pecans in Balsamic Vinaigrette
Serves 4-6 as an appetizer
For the maple buttered pecans:
8oz raw pecan halves (2 scant cups)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
For the Salad:
6-8 oz baby spinach
2.5 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
For the dressing:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
pepper to taste
Make the maple buttered pecans. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small saucepan warm the maple syrup and butter just until the butter is melted and the mixture is combined. Meanwhile, toss pecans halves with cinnamon and salt. Pour maple butter sauce over the pecans and mix well. Pour pecans and their juices onto your baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes, tossing the pecans about 3 times throughout baking to ensure even browning. You will know they are ready when they smell SO GOOD and when about 90% of the liquid has caramelized onto the pecans. Remove from oven and let cool completely, the last bit of liquid will harden and caramelize as they cool so don't worry if they are sticky.
Meanwhile make the dressing. Combine all ingredients in a mason jar and shake! How easy is that? (channeling Ina) You could also prepare everything but the oil in a small bowl and slowly whisk in the olive oil. Adjust salt + pepper to taste.
In a large bowl combine spinach, goat cheese, strawberries and pecans (you'll have extra for snacking. you're welcome) and about 1/4 of the dressing and toss. Add more dressing if needed and serve.
Notes: For a vegan option I'd imagine you could sub coconut oil for the butter and just omit the goat cheese, though I haven't actually tried it.