This past weekend we had a little get-together with my roommates from freshman year. Everyone brought the most delicious things to share, and it was fun catching up with each other. I brought this salad, and couldn't believe how much I could fall in love with the perfect crunchy texture and sweet taste of the candied almonds.
Let me explain - the candied almonds are not just sugary sweet. They have such a fun twist of cumin and paprika to kick the savory splendor up a few notches. You don't even have to limit their use to a salad. These would go perfectly over a dessert or a beautiful fruit compote/berry bowl with mint whipped cream. Can you even imagine? Oh man, this just opened up a whole set of doors for me. I can't wait!
Cranberry-Avocado Salad with Candied Spiced Almonds and Poppy Seed Balsamic Vinaigrette
6 oz baby spinach, stems removed, broken in half if leaves are too big
1 romaine heart, end removed, chopped
1 small bunch cilantro, washed/dried, leaves removed whole from stem
2 medium avocados, chopped
3/4 C dried cranberries
3/4 C *Candied Spiced Almonds (this makes the salad ridiculously delicious).
2 T feta cheese
1/3 C sugar
1 1/2 T poppy seeds
1 1/2 T sesame seeds
1/2 t paprika
2 t honey mustard (or dry mustard)
1 T minced sweet onion
1/2 t sea salt
1/4 t black pepper
1/2 balsamic vinegar (or white balsamic vinegar)
1/3 C vegetable oil
1/3 C EVOO
Prepare dressing: combine all ingredients in a medium-sized mason jar and shake well to dissolve sugar. Put lid on, let marinade until salad is prepped.
For the salad, place washed greens and cilantro leaves in a large bowl. Add dried cranberries and avocados and about 1/4 cup of the dressing and toss gently. Scatter candied almonds and feta over salad and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Have extra dressing at table for those who want more drizzle. (I preferred it very light).
recipe source: the cafe sucre farine
*Candied Spiced Almonds
3 cups sliced almonds
1/2 C sugar
3 T butter
2 t cinnamon
1 t cumin
1 t paprika
1 t vanilla
Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with cooking spray.
In a non-stick pan, heat sugar over medium heat, occasionally tipping and swirling the sugar until it's all melted into a pale golden syrup. Do not burn. Do not stir with a spoon yet (I speak from experience... I had to start over once... )
Lower heat immediately. Add butter. Then slowly add cinnamon, paprika and vanilla. Stir until well combined and all butter is incorporated into the sugar syrup.
Add the nuts and stir gently. If there are clumps of sugar, it's all good, they'll melt as you continue to stir the almonds. Cover and continue to cook on low, stirring often. Watch carefully, and DO NOT let them burn - it happens fast. Turn out mixture onto prepared foil and sprinkle with sea salt. Spread around foil to cool.
I ate this stuff in handfuls....
recipe adapted from: the cafe sucre farine