Summer is salads.
Fall is pumpkin spiced donuts, beef stew, fruit-stuffed pork loin, smokey corn chowder, and pumpkin pies. However, there are a few salads that can cross-seasons and still fit in. Today I made my take on the Pear, Walnut, Blue Cheese Salad–the classic Fall Salad.
When I researched “Pear, Walnut, Blue Cheese Salads”, I found that “the key to French Fall Salads,” was the need for a Bitter, a Spicy, a Salty, and a Sweet. In his take on the Classic Fall Salad, the bitter = arugula, the spicy = the vinegar, the salty = Roquette Cheese, and the sweet = the pear. It is a good thing that the author clarified what she meant because I thought that she was describing our family. We have the Biter–he is one and teething, we have the Sweet Scout and the Spicy Eloise, and then there is the Salty–he adds flavour to everything.
Now I enjoy the classic Pear, Walnut, Cheese Fall Salad, but I wanted to make it “mine”, so I created my own dressing–Not a vinaigrette.
Let’s start with the dressing since it involves reducing some apple cider. Saute an onion and a clove of garlic in a tablespoon or two of olive oil.
When the onions are soft, add 2 cups of apple cider and 2 T. of apple cider vinegar. Cook and reduce until it is just on the edge of becoming a syrup.
While this is reducing, let’s wash up some greens.
I live here at My Whit’s End with four picky eaters, so I don’t keep arugula or Roquette Cheese or Walnut Oil in my cupboard. Now I would like too, but being a one income, one car, one bathroom family, it just doesn’t make the “need” list when I go shopping, so I have to cook with the ingredients I have been dealt.
For the greens, I used a combination of curly leaf lettuce, Romaine, and spinach leaves–lettuces the kids will eat. Now when I add iceberg to a salad, the kiddos actually will clap, so when I need affirmation, I buy iceberg lettuce.
My greens were lacking that “bitterness” required by some French chef, so I added some grated radishes–not so strong for the kiddos and plenty of color. Radishes also fall in the “Shopping on a Budget with Picky Eaters” category. Radishes last forever in the refrigerator, so I can add color and bite to salads without buying radicchio.
Since this is a Fall Salad, and fall means falling leaves, I added some carrots for color and to squeeze just a few more vitamins into the kiddos.
The last time I visited My Garden, I found some pomegranates. I love the sparkling flavour that they give off, and I can never eat them without repeating, “a bell, and a pomegranate; a bell and a pomegranate; a bell and a pomegranate.”
(The white membrane is very bitter, so avoid it.)
If this salad is lunch, add some sliced turkey breast, grilled chicken, or pork tenderloin.
While the Apple Cider Dressing is reducing on low, get another pan and add about a cup of walnuts. If you are a Conscientious Sugar Objector, you can just toast the walnuts to bring out their nuttiness. If you are a Confectioner Craver, add about a half of a cup of that wonderfully-refined-tastes-divine white sugar. I added a half of a teaspoon of ginger to give my the walnuts a “spiced fall flavour.” I couldn’t taste the ginger, so my next guess would be to add some Pumpkin Pie Spice in a larger quantity. However, at the time of press release, this idea had not been tried. If you try it, let me know how it worked for you.
When the sugar has melted and carmelized, dump out the nuts on a cutting board to cool, then chop.
The Apple Cider Dressing is probably reduced enough. Here are before and after photos to help you see how much to reduce the cider mixture.
When I was scouting around for a salad dressing ideas, I came across a recipe that called for creme fraiche. Creme fraiche is divine. Creme franchise is like a cloud of British-ness on a scone with strawberries on top. Creme fraiche is la creme de la creme! An easy Creme Franchise recipe is to whip up some heavy cream add sour cream and let it set at room temperature for eight hours, then chill. Now an easy creme fraiche [pronounce krem fresh] recipe requires eight hours of forethought. Here at My Whit’s End the tide could change like in the Bay of Fundy before eight hours is up, so. . .
grab some mayo and let’s make salad dressing.
Add about 1 T. of Dijon mustard and about 2 T. of honey. If you have OCD, you can measure. If the phone is ringing, a kiddo is asking you the square root of 49, and a baby is precariously teetering on a stool, then just squeeze a little of each into the blender with a cup-ish (two big spatula swloops) of mayo.
Add the reduced apple cider mixture, and whirl the flavours together.
The next step separates the girls from the women; the Yankees from the Rebels; the meek from the mouthy; the sweet from the sassy. Will you or won’t you add some heat? Cayenne or McIlhenny’s (Tabasco for folk not from New Orleans) gives this sweet cider dressing a kick. To kick or not to kick is the question.
Time to plate–add some blue cheese (or whatever you have handy) and some sliced pears.
Time to enjoy–sit down and relish every bite.
Time to share–relish almost every bite. Hey! that’s my lunch!
(Keep that bottle of Kick’n Apple Cider Dressing handy, as you can use it on my version of Panera’s Fuji Apple Chicken Salad–coming soon.)
That was fun (and delicious), but who is up for a challenge? Let’s play our own blog version of Iron Chef combined with Chopped. I challenge you to make a Fall Salad. The challenging part is that you have to use the wicker basket of ingredients listed: the word “warm”–this can apply to spiciness, temperature, or color; beets; and Dark Chocolate. The rest is limited by your imagination. I might give it a try also. Send in your recipes (and if you have them some photographs) to here. Or add your recipe in the comments section. For those of you that prefer regular mail, contact me for my mailing address here. The Grand Prize will be a Garden Basket to help you out with your Thanksgiving Dinner (sorry about the timing Canadian readers) filled with a rooster printed tea towel; a gravy separator; a hot mit; green bamboo salad tongs; an amber, glass, turkey-shaped, mini dish; a turkey baster; and a “Scape and Clean” to help with the clean up.
Second place will be a rooster printed tea towel, a turkey baster, and a “Scrape and Clean.”
Third place will be a turkey printed tea towel, a Happy Chef spoon, and a “Scrape and Clean.”
Why did I do this? Just to add a little excitement in our lives. For us to think about something other than the laundry pile and pile of bills. For fun. For creativity. So even if you have never commented before, why not give this challenge a try. The only thing lacking is a good name for the challenge. The Virtual Whit’s End Wicker Basket Challenge? My Whit’s End Friendly Food Fight? Plate Up or Step Down? Give it a name in the comments section along with anything else you would like to add. Let’s give this contest the closing date of Sunday, November 13. That would still leave me a week to get the prizes to you all in the mail. Click “subscribe” to stay current of the latest develpements.
Looking forward to the entries,