Spicy Pecan & Apple Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

I love this recipe so much.  The varying textures and flavors are spot on - crunchy apples, peppery arugula, tart pomegranate seeds, sweet and spicy pecans, and a mustardy vinaigrette.  It's the perfect late-fall or early-winter salad and would be an ideal accompaniment to a holiday meal.   It would also be great paired with a hearty soup or casserole.  The fresh, seasonal ingredients are a welcomed contrast to richer fare.

Spicy Pecan & Apple Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

Serves 4

4 cups arugula
1 head butter lettuce, leaves torn into bit size pieces
1 apple, thinly sliced (I like honey crisp or Fuji)
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
Spicy Pecans (below)
Maple Dijon Vinaigrette (below)
Optional: 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

In a large serving bowl, toss arugula, butter lettuce, and half of the apple slices and pomegranate seeds with several tablespoons vinaigrette. Arrange remaining apple slices, pomegranate seeds, and spicy pecans on top (plus goat cheese if using).  Keep remaining dressing on the side.

Spicy Pecans

1/2 cup raw pecan halves
3 Tbs. maple syrup
up to 1/8 tsp. cayenne
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Toss pecans well with maple syrup, cayenne (to taste), and salt. Spread pecans in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 5-8 minutes until toasted and the maple syrup is bubbling.  Start checking after 5 minutes as they can burn very quickly after this point.  Remove from oven and let cool completely. Store at room temperature.  

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

1 Tbs. shallot, minced
3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg's)
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. maple syrup
6 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
black pepper

Measure all ingredients into a mason jar with lid.  Seal tightly and shake vigorously until all ingredients are well incorporated.  Let sit for at least 20 minutes for the flavors to meld.  Can be made several days ahead and stored in the fridge until use.