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Autumn Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

November 18, 2010

In The Sims 3, there’s a recipe called “Autumn Salad.” It’s memorable because it’s cheap, fire-proof and requires no cooking skill, so if you have a Sim who doesn’t care about cooking, she ends up living on the stuff.

I actually dusted off my Sims for the first time in months to check out their Autumn Salad. (It was difficult, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices in the name of food-blogging.) The only ingredient required by the game is lettuce, and from what I can tell, the Sim also throws in some eggplant and bell pepper, and maybe radishes. Intriguing, but not exactly Autumn-centric.

Instead, I’m appropriating the name for a big bowl of apples, pears, blue cheese and candied pecans. Like the salad in The Sims, it takes virtually no cooking skill to make. However, for extra points, you can make the dressing and candy your own pecans, and we all love points.

Whisk together in a mason jar: some minced dried cranberries, orange zest, OJ, mustard and red wine vinegar

While whisking, pour in some olive oil. Given the option, I would have put the whole thing in a blender, but this tasted just fine. The nice thing about the jar is that you can shake it later if it has separated, as it is doing here:

Next the pecans. This was a bit of an experiment and I ended up with way too much caramel, which solidified into a pecan-brittle. I just chopped it up and put it on my salad anyway, but I’ve adjusted the recipe below so it should be about right.

Now into the pot – what else? Butter and sugar. Plus some salt and treacle.

The recipe calls for corn syrup, but since I can’t get that here, I used Lyle’s Syrup in the uber-Victorian tin. It’s like a clear, very mild molasses.

Back to the pot: allow the sugar-mixture to come to a boil, stirring frequently. Then let it boil unstirred for 4 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add vanilla and baking soda. There’s a fun chemical reaction here where the caramel gets kind of frothy.

Pour it over the pecans in a greased baking dish.

Pop it in a 250° oven for an hour, stirring every ten minutes. Let cool in the fridge (or on the window sill if you live in a refrigerated country as I do.)

Once the pecans are completely cool, layer together some little gem lettuce, thin slices of apple, pear and red onion, blue cheese and the pecans. Drizzle with cranberry vinaigrette. Then try to resist picking out the cheese and pecans, just try…

Autumn Salad

4 cups torn-up little gem lettuce, (or romaine)
1 granny-smith apple, cored and sliced thin
1 sweet pear, cored and sliced thin
handful of red onion, sliced very thin
2/3 cup blue cheese, crumbled (I had some tasty Stilton)
2/3 cup candied pecans (see recipe below)
Cranberry vinaigrette (see recipe below)

Layer all ingredients in a bowl and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Candied Pecans

Recipe makes 2 cups – I trust you’ll find something to do with the extra.

¼ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons corn syrup (or sugar-syrup)
tsp salt

teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon vanilla
2 cups pecans

1.Preheat oven to 250°F / 175°C
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
3. Stir in brown sugar, syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring for 4 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat, stir in baking soda and vanilla.
5. Pour mixture over pecans in a shallow, greased baking dish and stir to combine
6. Bake for one hour, stirring every 10 minutes.
7. Allow pecans to cool completely in the fridge.

Cranberry Vinaigrette

¼ cup (heaping) finely minced dried sweetened cranberries
½ teaspoon orange zest
1 Tablespoon sweet orange juice
¼ teaspoon prepared dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt, add more to taste
¼ teaspoon pepper, add more to taste
⅓ cup olive oil

1. In a jar, bowl or food-processor, combine all ingredients except oil. Whisk well. While whisking (or while the processor is running), pour in the olive oil in a thin stream.
2. Set aside for several hours before use to absorb flavors.

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