I have idolized Susan Branch for years (you will read about my glimpse of her at the Creative Connection tomorrow) and I adore cooking from her beautiful hand written and painted cookbooks.
Last Saturday I needed a salad to bring to a friend's house for dinner, and I pulled her "Autumn" book from my collection, knowing I would find the perfect thing. And I did! I changed up a couple of things from the original recipe, based on what I could find at Trader Joes-here is my version:
Red Pear, Black Grape, Spiced Pecan Salad
3/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil
6 Tbsp. brown sugar
salt and pepper
Blend in a small saucepan, stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves, set aside.
Leaf Lettuce, one small head red and one small head green (you can really use any kind of greens here)
1 pomegranate, seeded (Traders Joes sells just the seeds, I love them!)
black seedless grapes, halved
1 lg red onion, thinly sliced into rings
1/2 c. crumbled gorgonzola
4 ripe red pears (I used green ones from a local orchard)
zest of two oranges
fresh figs, quartered
Spiced Pecans (you can make your own, recipe follows, but I used Trader Joes)
I arranged all of the fruit artfully on top of the greens, to make it pretty, and sprinkled it with the orange zest. I passed the dressing along with the onions, cheese, and pecans so people could make it their own (and avoid the things they didn't want). If you have never had a fresh fig, oh my, try to find them in your grocery store right now! They are currently in season, so you may get lucky. That was something I added from the original recipe, they really fit in with the other flavors. The dressing makes plenty, I have used it again over fresh tomatoes and sliced cucumbers, yum!
If you want to make your own Spiced Pecans, here is Susan's recipe:
spray olive oil
2 c. pecan halves
1/4 brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 c. melted butter
4 Tbsp. Mexican hot sauce (Cholula)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Preheat oven to 350, light spray olive oil on a cookie sheet. Mix all other ingredients and spread in pan in 1 layer. Bake 10 min. until lightly toasted, stirring once. Cool.
I adore her cookbooks, as they aren't just recipes. Here is the description from a book selling site:
Picking up where The Summer Book left off, Susan Branch's Autumn from the Heart of the Home fills the Fall season with all-American recipes, thoughtful gifts, crafts projects, decorating ideas, and entertaining themes. The recipes include Touchdown Chili, Butternut Shotglass Soup, Iowa Corn Bread, Savory Sage Riblets, Harvest Stew, Grandma's Stuffing, Curried Pumpkin Pots, Ginger Crisps, and, of course, Hot Chocolate. The book is generously illustrated with Branch's trademark graphics and watercolors.
If nothing else, try to find some of her books at your local library, you will be glad you did!