Michigan Cherry Salad (With Maple-Cayenne Candied Walnuts and Cherry-Balsamic Vinaigrette)
This is my take on a Michigan cherry salad. At every restaurant in Michigan, you will see a cherry salad on the menu. The basics are dried cherries, salad greens, candied nuts, blue cheese and/or gorgonzola. I like to do the candied cayenne walnuts to add a little sweet heat. We grow spicy Asian greens for a short time here in the summer, but if those aren’t available, feel free to substitute your favorite leafy greens. I love this dressing so much that I always keep it on hand.
Maple-Cayenne Candied Walnuts 1 tablespoon butter 1 tablespoon Michigan maple syrup 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 tablespoon sugar ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper ⅛ teaspoon salt 3 ounces chopped walnuts (about ¾ cup)
6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
Cherry-Balsamic Vinaigrette 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard ¼ cup cherry preserves ¼ cup olive oil
16 ounces Asian mixed greens (substitute: any fresh field greens) ½ cup dried cherries ½ cup thinly sliced red onions ½ cup blue cheese crumbles Fresh Michigan black sweet cherries, pitted and halved, for garnish (if in season)
MAKE MAPLE-CAYENNE CANDIED WALNUTS In a small saucepan, add butter, maple syrup, vanilla, sugar, cayenne, salt and walnuts. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Pour walnuts onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, let cool.
PREPARE BACON In a small skillet, add bacon and cook over medium-high heat for 9 to 11 minutes, or until done but not too crispy. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain.
MAKE CHERRY-BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE In a small bowl, whisk together vinegars, mustard and cherry preserves. Slowly pour in olive oil, continually whisking until everything is well incorporated. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.
ASSEMBLE Add mixed greens and dried cherries to a large bowl. Add bacon, onion slices and blue cheese crumbles. Drizzle dressing over greens and top with black sweet cherries, when in season. Toss and serve.