I was in something of a groove with summer salads. Soft butter lettuces, drippy-sweet peaches or melon, a handful of basil leaves. Maybe some corn shaved off the cob, or mild and briny feta. These were less salads than summer celebrations. And then the rains set in, and corn and peaches and basil leaves disappeared. And salads became the same. Lettuce, carrots, maybe some beets or toasted pumpkin seeds if I was feeling fancy. You know, salads. Boring salads. And then I saw this recipe. Crisp apples, fresh croutons, cheddar cheese and scallions. Oh, and parsley, all tied together with a limey dressing. Hello, fall salads!
This recipe comes from Joshua McFadden, the genius behind the ur-kale salad, way back in our kale-free days of 2007. McFadden now, blessedly, has set up shop in Portland, where I was lucky enough to eat at his restaurant. And he does have a way with vegetables.
This salad is just lovely — much like my summertime versions, more celebration than salad, a curated assembly of the fruits of the season. The dressing is aggressively limey, but is perfectly balanced by the cheese, bread, and scallions. And then there's the nuts! And apples apples apples! Can you tell I'm excited? It's just that sort of salad.
And if you'd like another reason to wax enthusiastic about the autumnal harvest, I recently produced a story about eating acorns (or, if you prefer to think of them this way, oak nuts). You can hear all about it over at NPR.
Apple Walnut Salad with Bread, Cheddar and Lime
adapted from Joshua McFadden, via Bon Appetit
serves ~6 small first courses, 4 larger courses
1/2 cup walnut halves
1 generous cup rough-torn pieces of crusty bread
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the bread
1/4 cup lime juice
generous pinch chili flakes
2 crisp apples (Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, etc)
1/4 cup parsley leaves, plucked off the stems
4 scallions, thinly sliced on a diagonal
1/3 cup crumbled sharp white cheddar
Preheat your oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Spread the walnuts in a rimmed baking sheet, and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden brown (~8-10 minutes). Give them a rough chop (or just crush them with your hands), and set aside in a small dish.
Raise the oven temperature to 450° Fahrenheit, and place the bread chunks on that same baking sheet. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of salt, then toast, stirring occasionally, until toasted to a golden brown on the edges, ~10 minutes (you can also do this in a skillet, but hey if you've got the oven on it's easy). Remove, and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, honey, and chili flakes, along with salt to taste. Core and thinly slice the apples, then toss them with the dressing to coat (which, conveniently, will keep the apples from discoloring). Then add the parsley, scallions, cheddar, and reserved walnuts and bread, and gently toss. Transfer to plates and serve.