Baby Spinach Salad with Candied Pecans, Blue Cheese, Shiitake Chips and Zinfandel Syrup

INGREDIENTS:½ lb. large shiitake mushrooms (about 24)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
6 oz. baby spinach leaves, washed and spun dry
3 oz. good-quality domestic blue cheese, crumbled
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 Tbsp. olive oil
as needed, salt and freshly ground black pepper

Candied Pecans:
1 lb. pecan halves
1 large egg, separated; keep the white and beat slightly
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. ground allspice
½ tsp. ground coriander

Zinfandel Syrup:
1 cup Gallo of Sonoma Zinfandel
1 Tbsp. dark brown sugarDIRECTIONS: For pecans:
Toss pecan halves with slightly beaten egg white in a large bowl. Combine sugar, salt and spices in a small bowl and add to pecans, tossing well. Spread nuts on a cookie sheet and roast at 325°F about 45 minutes, stirring gently with a spatula every 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

For Zinfandel syrup:
Combine wine and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Stir well over low heat to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil. The wine may flame briefly; don’t panic, just stand back. Boil until reduced by half. Lower heat and continue to boil gently until wine turns syrupy and is reduced by three-quarters. Only ¼ cup will remain. This will happen quickly and syrup is easy to scorch, so watch it carefully. Let syrup cool to room temperature.

For the mushrooms:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove stems from mushrooms and toss the caps with 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Arrange caps, well apart, on a cookie sheet and roast in the oven 20-30 minutes until browned and crisp. Let cool to room temperature. Do not refrigerate.

To serve:
Combine spinach, blue cheese and about 3/4 cup of pecans in large bowl. In smaller bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil; pour over salad. Season with salt and pepper. Toss gently. Divide salad among six chilled plates and pile four shiitake chips decoratively on top of each. Drizzle on the Zinfandel syrup.SERVINGS:6 servingsFrom:From: Susan Goss, Zinfandel, Chicago.
Team: Chicago BearsPHOTO CREDIT:Photo Credit: TASTE OF THE NFL/ M.JENSEN PHOTOGRAPHY