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Originally published Wednesday, November 8, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Recipe: Chestnut Salad with Pecans and Pancetta

Serves 8 to 10

Dressing:

- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar

- 3 tablespoons walnut oil

- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

- 1 teaspoon chestnut honey or other honey

- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

- Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Croutons:

- ½ French baguette

- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

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Salad:

- 8 cups cleaned and torn mixed greens

- ¼ pound thinly sliced pancetta

- 1 tablespoon olive oil

- 1 medium clove garlic, minced

- 1 cup peeled and cooked chestnuts, coarsely crumbled (see Note)

- ¼ cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

- Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. To prepare dressing: Put mustard, vinegar, walnut oil, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper in a small jar, replace lid and shake well to blend. Taste and add a little more vinegar if needed. Refrigerate. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before using.

2. To prepare croutons: Remove crust and cut bread into ½-inch cubes. Put onto a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Mix well with your hands. Toast in a preheated 375-degree oven 12 to 15 minutes, tossing occasionally, until croutons are golden brown and crispy on the outside but still a little soft and tender inside. Cool. Store in a zip-top food-storage bag up to 2 days.

3. To prepare salad: Prepare the greens the morning of serving, place in a zip-top food-storage bag and refrigerate.

4. About an hour before serving, stack slices of pancetta, then roll and slice crosswise into 1/8-inch thick strips. Unfurl and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and sauté until browned and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon. Pour all but 2 teaspoons fat from pan. Reduce heat to medium, add chestnuts and garlic and sauté 2 minutes. Scrape chestnuts to the edge of the pan and add pecans. Toast about 2 minutes. Stir thyme, salt and pepper into the mixture and set aside.

5. Just before serving, toss salad ingredients with dressing and croutons.

Editor's note: Be sure guests aren't allergic to nuts or nut oils before serving.

Note: The chestnuts we used for this recipe are the Sierra Rica natural chestnuts sold in a 7-ounce jar. They are peeled and cooked.

Adapted from "Mostly Mediterranean" by Paula Wolfert

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