Adding fruit and cheese to a salad is certainly not a revolutionary concept. However, this salad has become a recurring guest in my kitchen as summer wains to a close. This tasty combination is so flexible that it leaves no excuse for a house salad soaked in a syrupy bottled dressing.
Salad should be as enjoyable as another other element in a meal, with the same attention played to a balance of flavors. I may come off as high-handed, describing the Zen of salads. But, after tasting this salad, I think you will agree with me. I mean, it was good enough for the future King of England in Mark Helprin‘s Freddy and Fredericka:
“I’m quite looking forward to it myself,” Bannerman said. “Have been. Very hungry, I assure you. We have a broth of venison, a salad of wild greens and cherry tomatoes with Stilton-walnut dressing, grilled quail, baguettes just flown up from Paris, splits of Lafite ’64, Badoit, chocolate mousse, ginger biscuits, Champagne, and tea.”
If that doesn’t sound like the most wonderful, decadent picnic ever, I don’t know what does! While I don’t have access to venison, quail, Champagne, and sparkling French waters, I did have a nice package of chicken thighs and a lovely piece of Stilton. I skipped the walnuts due to allergies, although for that meal I may have tried to suffer through. I also added mustard because I add it to most things. Feel free to skip it entirely! Without future ado, I give you a perfect fall salad.
Amongst the many who have posted on this idea, the NY Times
Feel free to switch the apples for cherry tomatoes, dried cranberries, apricots, or cherries, pears, Asian pears, cooked quince…the options are astounding.
Cheeses could include Feta, Gorgonzola, Manchego, Roquefort, Gruyère, even Cheddar.
Nuts again have many options: almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, pine nuts.
I went with cider vinegar to match the apples but again it is you choice!
1 medium apple
1 handful dried cranberries
1 handful chopped almonds
1 handful crumbled Stilton
lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
apple cider vinegar
Dijon mustard, optional
Peel and dice the apple. Place in a large bowl with cranberries, almonds, and Stilton. Place the lettuce on top. If not serving immediately, place to the side at this point.
When ready to serve, sprinkle salt over the entire salad. Be generous. Pour vinegar over the salad. Pour about as much olive oil over the salad. Toss gently. Every leaf should be glossy but there should not be a puddle of dressing in the bowl. The cheese will break down slightly and make the dressing creamier.