I worked for Whole Foods Market, Inc. for 10 years. You’d be amazed at how many of the team members, at least at Central Support (read “corporate HQ”), were foodies. I was on the Banking Team and we often put together team potlucks over lunch, sometimes theme-based. It was so tasty and so fun! All of the members of my team were talented, both professionally and in the kitchen. It was a wonderful time in my career, and I made friends I still call dear to this day.
There are many pecan feta salad recipes out there. Most you find on the “internet webs” are with craisins. Whole Foods makes these ready-made salads with craisins as well. But in the flagship store in downtown Austin, there used to be a version made with Kalamata olives instead of craisins. AND I FELL IN LOVE WITH THAT SALAD. I ate it a lot. I mean, a lot. Just ask my ex team members. It was a lot.
So I wanted to share my interpretation of that salad. I never got a recipe, but instead tried to reverse-engineer it to match the flavor profile. And now my family loves it too.
My version of this salad is basically made with baby field greens, candied pecans, sweet onions, Kalamata olives, feta crumbles, and a creamy balsamic vinaigrette. It is so simple and SO amazing that I have to urge you to give it a try. You can serve it as a vegetarian entrée or as a side salad with another entrée. It is a beautiful side with a Mediterranean dish.
I like this salad with candied pecans. You don’t have to candy them, but it adds another layer of flavor. If you want them candied then start by candying the pecans. You want them completely cooled before adding them to the salad, so they need to go first. Drizzle the agave nectar and stir thoroughly to evenly coat the pecans. Then lightly toast them over medium heat.
This is a very important tip. Don’t walk away from your pecans while they are toasting in the pan.
By this I mean, don’t walk away while the pecans are toasting for any reason. For instance, don’t leave the pecans alone to take pictures of other ingredients while you are cooking, and fail to stir the sweetened nuts in the hot pan.
Because all cooks stop to take pictures of their cooking steps and run the risk of burning something on the stove, right? So yeah, don’t do that. Because if you do, here is what it looks like. I know you can’t taste it, but believe me, the burnt ones don’t taste so great .
So…if you pay attention to what you are doing, here’s what they should look like.
You don’t need seared or overly-toasted nuts. You just want evenly-coated pecans where the sweetness of the agave nectar has covered the nuts.
Next, I would suggest you make the dressing. Start by mincing a small to medium garlic clove. Put it in a measuring cup (it makes it easier to manage the other dressing ingredients if you can track the measurements).
I like to add all the ingredients except the Dijon mustard. Add it last and then whisk it with vigor until you get a beautiful, creamy, dark, caramel-colored dressing.
Then let’s go to the salad itself.
So here’s the deal. Many of the craisin versions of this salad will omit the onions. Or, if they stay true to the way Whole Foods made them, they will have slices of red onion. I love onions, but raw onion in a raw salad can steal the show. And if you follow any of my previous posts, you will know that I have a thing for sweet (or Texas Sweets, or go for Vidalia) onions. There is much less acid, much less sharp and biting taste, and much less after-the-enjoying onion breath. I recommend sweet onions. You do whatever you like, because this is, after all, your salad.
But slice them thinly. They are a compliment, not the main ingredient.
Start with the greens, add the nuts, olives, onions, and feta. Then drizzle that sexy, creamy, balsamic vinaigrette.
Seriously? It’s seduction on a plate. Or on a serving platter.
I love being seduced. So I went back again. I think you will too.
Maybe make more than the recipe calls for? That way, your bases will be covered.
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar
- ⅓ to ½ sweet onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup Kalamata olives
- 1 cup feta crumbles
- 3 cups baby field greens
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small to medium clove garlic, diced
- First, candy the pecan so that they can cool before adding to the salad.
- Heat the pecan halves in a non-stick skillet over medium heat with the agave nectar.
- Stir well to distribute and watch carefully so it does not burn.
- Next, combine all of the dressing ingredients except the Dijon.
- Then add the Dijon and whisk vigorously until the dressing is thickened and creamy.
- Assemble the salad in a serving dish, first the greens, then the onions, olives and pecans.
- Drizzle with the dressing and serve.