Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Seasonal Salad with Apples, Pecans, and Cheese
Mixed Greens, Apples, Pecans, Goat Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette
There is hardly any story here. This salad is a cafe classic that became a favorite at home for two main reasons - it tastes good, and it is immensely satisfying. It is great as a first course salad but works just as well as a light main dish by increasing the quantities or by adding an egg or other protein on the side. It also follows my current mantra of making something using few stellar ingredients each of which contributes towards a great end result.
The crunch of sweet apples is offset by the tangy creaminess of the cheese and the nutty pecans, all providing great character to the basic green salad. When local apples start showing up in the farmers market in fall and winter, this is a salad I look forward to. The dressing is my all time favorite too, one that I must've made over a hundred times by now. Sometimes even when I eat outside I choose a salad just because I see the words 'balsamic vinaigrette' on the menu.
A note on the mustard
Even though the mustard is used in such a tiny amount here, its taste really comes through, so use a good mustard that you really like, or leave it out. I absolutely do not mean to be a snob, but at the risk of sounding like one I have to say that the best prepared mustard I have had is a champagne mustard I bought a couple of years back in Paris, at La grande épicerie. It was seriously good stuff, and a regular Dijon mustard also bought there is a close second. Sadly, I have yet to find anything like either of those here.
Like most salads, the following quantities should be used only as a general guideline and not as a precise recipe. These are for 2 servings, and can be scaled very easily.
Ingredients for Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 T balsamic vinegar
2 T extra virgin olive oil
a bit of coarse salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for salad
mixed geeens, about 4 cups
1 small apple
big handful of pecans, or walnuts
4 Tablespoons feta cheese, goat cheese, or any type of blue cheese
salt and pepper
Tossing it together
To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the mustard, honey, and vinegar, and slowly add the olive oil, whisking until everything emulsifies together. Add coarse salt and ground pepper.
Heat a medium sized skillet and toast the pecans for a few minutes just until they start to turn a shade darker. Keep an eye on them, they take turn bitter if roasted too much. Let them cool.
Rinse and dry the salad greens. Core the apple and slice it thin.
Spoon the dressing over the greens a little at a time, and toss until the leaves are light coated with the dressing. Add the apples, pecans, and cheese, and a little salt and pepper to taste.
Sending this over to Andrew for his event 'Waiter, there is something in my Seasonal Salad'.