Last night we brought salad to a pot-luck dinner with friends. And don’t get me wrong, I like salads and all, but I wouldn’t say I typically sit around daydreaming about what raw veggies to mix up next. However, in the half hour I had to throw this together, I figured I could either bemoan that I didn’t get to bring dessert or go big and make a really damn good salad.
I was craving something with a hint of autumn in it: apples, roasted nuts, maple syrup, etc.
This is infinitely adaptable to one’s personal taste. I think the caramelized nuts along with maple vinaigrette really make the dish.
EARLY FALL SALAD WITH MAPLE VINAIGRETTE
4-6 C. your preferred salad green (I used a mix of romaine, radicchio, and baby spinach)
1 medium, crisp, sweet apple like Gala or Fugi
1 small cucumber
1 C. chopped almonds or walnuts
1/3 – 1/2 C. granulated sugar
1/3 C. olive oil
4-5 T. pure maple syrup
3 T. apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or distilled vinegar
1-2 t. dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
- Tear lettuce into bite size pieces. Rinse and dry (a salad spinner is great here). Mound in a large serving bowl.
- Chop apple and cucumber into 1/2″ pieces and sprinkle atop the bed of lettuce.
- Prepare caramelized nuts: Spread chopped nuts in a dry 8″-12″ skillet. Sprinkle sugar on top. Turn the stove top heat to between low and medium. I use setting 3 or 4 on a 1-10 dial. Take a fork and swirl the nuts in the sugar. Don’t go anywhere. Things can progress quickly here. After 1-2 minutes the sugar will become wet, keep stirring. Then the wet sugar will start turning light brown, keep stirring for just a few seconds until a nice brown color is achieved…not chocolate brown or black. Err on the conservative side. Quickly remove pan from heat and scrape your nuts into a glass bowl. Let cool. Then break up into pieces by stabbing with your fork (rather gothic sounding) and pile on top of your salad.
- To make vinaigrette: Mix all remaining ingredients together in a small container with a lid. Shake, shake, shake. Taste and adjust. If the flavor isn’t popping try adding a tiny squirt more of mustard and/or vinegar. I always tend to add more maple syrup, too.
- When ready to serve, drizzle each portion with vinaigrette.
Serves 12, approximately