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Benedictine Walnut Salad with Blue Cheese and Balsamic

Benedictine Walnut Salad with Blue Cheese and Balsamic

I’m not a big drinker. I’m just not. I could never hold my alcohol in college, so I’m a total lightweight. But I’m odd. I’m fascinated by the whole history and process of making beer (even though I really don’t like it that much). A few years ago I also became interested in the history of Benedictine liqueur. Part of the fascination it holds for me is that not only is it a highly complex liqueur with flavors from a large number of different herbs and spices, but the formula for it is also a secret.

So, on a whim a few years ago, I bought a bottle.

And, much to my mild annoyance, I didn’t like it that much. It’s ok. But again, I’m not a big drinker, and while I prefer alcohol a little on the sweeter side, this was just too strong and too sweet for my tastes.

But what was I going to do with it? The flavor itself is actually pretty interesting, with lots of spicy and herbaceous flavor notes.

Then it hit me one day. Deglaze something with it! But what?

“Walnuts, you fool” a voice told me. “Put it in a salad!” Well, when strange voices start giving you commands about cooking food, you have two choices. Ignore the voices, or take a chance.

So I took a chance. And it was amazing. Nuanced. Sweet. The herbal notes of the liqueur combined with the toasted nutty flavor of the walnuts more than stands up to a spicy arugula, balsamic and blue cheese salad.

The technique:

Assemble your ingredients. Walnuts, Benedictine liqueur, salad greens, fresh cracked pepper, balsamic vinegar and blue cheese.

Toast your walnuts in a little olive oil in a pan until they begin to brown and start to smell nutty. Then deglaze with the Benedictine liqueur and cook until the glaze starts to reduce. The smell will be incredibly fragrant.

Next, just assemble your salad and top with the glazed walnuts, blue cheese crumbles, balsamic vinegar and fresh cracked pepper.

The ingredients:

  • one small bowl of salad greens
  • 1/2 cup whole or shelled walnuts
  • 1/8 cup Benedictine liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons blue cheese
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar drizzled on top
  • cracked pepper to taste

I think you’ll be surprised by how good this is.  I’m sure it would work with any other bottle of neglected herbal or spicy liqueur you’ve got sitting around.

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