PATI'S MEXICAN TABLE

May 7, 2011 11:30 AM
Spinach Salad with Jamaica Vinaigrette and Caramelized Pecans
SPINACH SALAD WITH JAMAICA VINAIGRETTE AND CARAMELIZED PECANS
Ensalada de Espinaca con Vinagreta de Jamaica y Nueces GarapiƱadas
Serves 8 to 10

INGREDIENTS
18 oz fresh spinach leaves, rinsed, drained and thickly sliced
1 bunch watercress, rinsed and stems removed
6-8 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves
Jamaica Vinaigrette (see below)
1 cup caramelized pecans, roughly chopped or whole pieces, to your liking (recipe follows)

Jamaica Vinaigrette
3/4 cup dried jamaica flowers
3 garlic cloves
1 cup safflower oil
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp kosher or sea salt
2 tsp sugar, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

TO PREPARE
Place the jamiaca flowers in a bowl along with the garlic, oils, vinegar, salt, sugar and pepper.  Let them sit for a few minutes, for the flowers to soften up a bit.  Then pour everything into a blender and puree.  The flowers will not be pureed until smooth.  The mix will have a textured consistency with chewy flower chunks: that's what you want! 

Let the mix stand for at least two hours.  If it will not be used then, it can be kept in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week.

Place the spinach and watercress in a large bowl.  Pour some of the vinaigrette on top and toss. Top with the chopped caramelized pecans and sprinkle the scallions over the top. Drizzle some more vinaigrette on top. If you have leftover vinaigrette, you can eat it with a spoon!

CARAMELIZED PECANS

INGREDIENTS
1 cup shelled pecans
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tbsp butter or vegetable shortening, diced
1 tsp salt, or to taste (use regular salt, not kosher or sea salt)

TO PREPARE
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place the pecans on a baking tray, add the butter chunks and pour the maple syrup on top. Toss.  Bake for 10 minutes, take them out of the oven and stir to make sure all the pecans are covered with the syrup.  Place them back in the oven for another 8 to 10 minutes, until they have browned and the syrup has thickened to the consistency of caramel.

Take them out of the oven, scoop the pecans out and place on a dry surface such as a kitchen counter or another baking tray. Try to separate the nuts from each other.  Once completely cool, they can be stored in a closed container for weeks.