Pennsylvania Kitchen: Sugar Plum Chocolates’ Citrus Thyme Pecan Salad

A good salad is more than a bunch of veggies thrown into a bowl. Sure, that will do in a pinch, but for a harmonious mingling of flavors, each ingredient must be added in a way that brings balance and harmony to the plate. It’s no surprise that, during his visit to the Pennsylvania Kitchen, Neil Edley of Sugar Plum Chocolates (Forty Fort, PA), brought the same careful, technical style to the salad he prepared for us that he does to the gourmet chocolate and nuts that his company handcrafts.

His Citrus Thyme Pecan Salad starts with a base of crisp, peppery arugula from Rowland’s Pennsylvania Produce, a hydroponic farm in Luzerne County that grows pesticide-free lettuce and herbs, with the goal of bringing the highest quality produce to the local community. You can find its lovely greens at local markets, including House of Nutrition in Luzerne, Everything Natural in Clarks Summit and select Wegmans, as well as in restaurants, like Terra Preta Prime in Scranton and Cork Bar & Restaurant in Wilkes-Barre. Then, Edley adds more local veggies: raw cucumbers, carrots and heirloom tomatoes, along with sliced avocado and baby mozzarella. (We love salads that include a bit of fat and protein!) Then, for a touch of alluring sweetness, he layers on thinly sliced pears, a sprinkle of Sugar Plum’s kettle-cooked Tangerine & Thyme pecans and a complex, rich dressing with aged balsamic, orange zest and raw local honey (try Newkirk Honey!).

The effect is stunning: a melange of textures and flavors, with every component fully considered. Try it with peak-season produce from your local farmers market for a delicious vegetarian lunch or supper.

Watch our video to see Neil in action, then head here to find the full recipe!