Maybe it’s Keith Mesch’s chemistry background. Or maybe it’s his well stocked pantry. It’s most likely a combination of the two, and more. Either way, Keith, an organic chemist, was the grand prize winner in our recent salad recipe contest. His entry: A salad composed of fruit, pecans and mixed greens. It comes together with a gorgonzola vinaigrette.Here’s the verdict from our judge, award-winning cookbook author Marie Simmons:
“I love the innovative combination of the fresh and dried fruit. Good textures too — especially the crunchy (and spicy) candied pecans,” Marie wrote. “The saltiness of the gorgonzola will help balance the sweetness. Great use of California Olive Ranch oil.” (Click here to see the recipe.)
Marie’s decision, to be sure, wasn’t an easy one. We received dozens of great recipes for fresh, homemade salads. Marie praised the high quality of the submissions.
Keith, by the way, lives in Mount Healthy, Ohio. He told us he created the salad from scratch, using what was available.
“I wish I could tell you there was a great moment of inspiration. But honestly, we keep a well stocked pantry and fridge and one day this was what happened,” he said. “While we really enjoyed the salad, it was my wife that strongly encouraged me to write it down and enter your contest.”
The rest is history.
For the salad, the pecans feature a sweet and spicy kick. Pecan halves are fried in a combination of brown sugar, butter and cayenne pepper that’s been melted into a syrupy liquid. The pecans are then removed and left to cool on a baking sheet.
The salad itself features mixed greens topped with diced pears, dates and the pecans. It’s dressed with a vinaigrette made from extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and crumbled gorgonzola.
Keith and his wife, a painter, have four kids. Two are studying chemistry, while the other two are involved in the arts.
“We all love to cook. If you think about it, it makes sense,” Keith said. “Cooking is creative. It feeds the artist’s soul. Yet it’s also combining herbs, spices, and working with yeast. It’s chemistry in action.”
Your friends at California Olive Ranch