This is one of my favorite vinaigrettes and salad. The dressing is warmed up with some shallots and fresh herbs and pureed until creamy; served over spinach, sweet roasted pears, dried cranberries and crunchy pecans.
This takes 4-5 steps, but you do a few steps ahead of time so then it is just a matter of warming up the vinaigrette and tossing the salad.
Pecans -- In a small dry saute pan, toast the pecan halves on medium heat for just a couple of minutes until they get lightly brown. You will actually start to smell their toasted flavor. Remove from the pan and cool on a paper towel and then place in a ziplock bag or small tupperware type container and keep until you are ready to make the salad.
Vinaigrette -- Make this a day or so ahead and then all you need to do is just reheat.
Step 1: In a small bowl, add add the apple cider, vinegar, honey, and cinnamon stick, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
Step 2: In a small pot, add the oil and saute the shallots of medium heat until tender. Then add in the apple cider mix and bring to a boil. Continue to cook on medium for about 4-5 minutes to let it reduce slightly.
Remove from the heat and stir in the mustard and thyme. Add to a blender and puree until smooth and creamy. Check to see if it needs any salt or pepper. I usually use 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 pepper, but season according to your taste.
The dressing is done. You can use it right then, or you can put in a small container and refrigerate until later.
If serving it at a later date, I just whisk the vinaigrette, or my favorite method (just shake it in a small tupperware container) or you can always put it back in the blender or even use and immersion blender and then just reheat in the microwave for 1 minute on medium heat.
Pears -- You need to make the pears a couple of hours before as I like to serve them chilled. In a medium size bowl, add the melted butter, allspice, and pears and toss well. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil and bake for 15-20 minutes in a 425 degree oven until tender but not too soft and then begin to get lightly brown. Depending on how thick you slice them, they can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes. Remove to a plate to cool. Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Salad -- In a large bowl add the spinach, red onion, cranberries and set to the side.
Vinaigrette -- Reheat until warm. Medium heat in the microwave for 1-1 1/2 minutes.
Finish the Salad -- Add a spoon or two of the vinaigrette over the spinach, cranberries and onions and toss lightly. Divide the spinach between four plates. Finish the salad by topping it with the chilled pears and toasted pecans. Drizzle the warm vinaigrette over the salad and enjoy!
This will serve 4 large salads or 6 smaller salads.