When I started brainstorming autumn and Thanksgiving recipes towards the start of September, I wrote down a list of all of my preferred autumn vegetables that I knew were about to come in season locally so I could begin tinkering in the kitchen. Having a family member affords me the unique opportunity to get my hands on boxes upon boxes of fresh from the field produce, still caked in dirt with bugs still happily feasting, often picked the within and hour or two of it landing on my doorstep. It’s a perk I often take for granted.
Growing up, I can remember the days before broccolini and broccaflower (also known as green cauliflower or romanesco broccoli) were all the rage, when it just about plain broccoli and cauliflower, and not these strange hybrids that have been genetically modified by some seed producer looking to make a lot of money (and they do make a lot of money). The one vegetable that’s largely remained untouched throughout the years has been spinach, which I fully admit has never been one of my favorites unless it’s been boiled down and made into spinach dip. Even so, spinach salad is one of my husband’s favorites, so I try to incorporate it as much as possible into my cooking because I know how much he enjoys it.
Imagine my surprise when my father informed me that they weren’t farming organic spinach this fall. Organic spinach is one of the company’s most successful products (chances are, their product is sold in your local grocery store wherever you are in the United States), so for such a large company to shift their focus from organic to conventionally grown spinach this fall is a big deal.
Full disclosure: I’m not a believer in organic produce, and chances are you or someone you know will only buy organic, so for the sake of this recipe I wanted to use organic produce and created this recipe using organic baby greens. I’ll get to the recipe in a moment.
Frequently, I’ll give extra produce to friends and they’ll usually make a face when I say it’s not organic. When I ask them why they prefer organic to conventional, I usually get the same answer: they’re not grown using fertilizer or pesticides, which is simply not true. When I mention that animals are used as organic fertilizer (something that has really irked me for a long time), most of the time, they don’t believe me. Blood meal, raw bones and even farmed fish are used to make organic fertilizer, which a lot of consumers don’t seem to be aware of. But I’m getting off topic here.
In place of the organic spinach that was supposed to grow in one specific field, they’re instead growing another type of produce so they can chemically treat the ground to be rid of whatever harmful bacteria that has taken up residence on that farm. As crazy as it sounds, those vegetables will be safe to eat. And, if that’s not cool enough, the plan b vegetable that was planted instead, is higher in fiber, iron and calcium than the organic spinach would have been! It’s too bad that’s not advertised in grocery stores the same way organic or GMO-free products are.
We’re currently living in an era where marketing and advertising is dictating our lives, down to what we believe is healthy and what is not. As someone who benefits financially from the organic produce industry, I say keep buying that organic produce, it’s making farmers extremely wealthy. But as a consumer, I think it’s so important that we research these topics for ourselves and come to our own understanding and conclusions. Of course many studies conducted by both our government and the farmers growing the produce are kept confidential for various reasons (because that’s not shady), there are still a handful of unbiased studies and articles available that discuss the scientific pro’s and con’s of both conventionally and organically grown produce.
Having said all of that, today’s salad recipe calls for organic baby greens. If you don’t want to use organic produce, that’s fine by me. It won’t change the flavors of this delectable salad which consists of candied pecans, bacon crumbles, goat cheese, asian pears and your new favorite vinaigrette dressing. Do you see what I did there?
For years, I have been making this candied pecan recipe from All Recipes, with the addition of using cardamom and coriander to give the nuts a well-rounded flavor. They’re great in salads (obviously), and also make an easy snack to put out for dinner and cocktail parties.
The highlight of this recipe, however, are the asian pears, which are sautéed in butter and the pan drippings from the bacon. They’re cooked just long enough so they’re slightly tender, but still somewhat crunchy, which gives this salad one of it’s three crunchy textures (bacon and candied pecans being the other two). The bacon and butter combination give the pears this delicious smooth and somewhat salty flavor boost, which I just love. Upon making this salad for the first time, my husband quickly stated this was the best salad he’s ever had in his life, even better than he’s ever had at any restaurant. Yep, I totally gave myself a pat on the back.
AUTUMN HARVEST SALAD
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon whole grain mustard, plus more to taste
- salt and pepper
- 5 ounces bacon, about 6 slices
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 asian pear or honey crisp apple, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup candied pecans, see recipe linked above
- 2 cups organic baby leaf greens, washed and dried
- 3 ounces crumbled goat cheese
How to cook AUTUMN HARVEST SALAD
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- In a skillet or frypan, cook the bacon slices until crisp and golden. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool.
- With the drippings from the bacon still in the pan, melt the butter and add the pears. Cook until just tender and beginning to turn golden.
- Arrange the washed greens in a serving dish, crumble the bacon onto the greens, followed by the goat cheese, sliced pears, candied pecans, and vinaigrette. Serve with extra candied pecans.