This is an apple and cheddar salad and I would humbly argue an excellent one, the best I’ve ever made, but this recipe is also an excuse for me to share a few of the best tricks I keep up my sleeve (I always wanted to be a cook who said things like that, when what you might actually find is a lost piece of popcorn) to make the kinds of complex salads I can never resist on a cafe menu at home as simply as possible. Because we deserve to have fancy, cool, crunchy, dynamic, and gorgeous salads at home, even if we do not live a life that allows us to afford fancy salads made by others on a regular basis.
The first element follows a basic salad math equation of crispy cheese > fresh cheese. Grated cheese melts in the oven into flakes of golden, lacy cheese crisps that are easier to make and better than most croutons by a mile. I said what I said.
The second element stems from my belief that a salad without a pickled element is a sad one. Soaking minced shallot (or onion) in the vinegar portion of your dressing until it lightly pickles while you make the rest of the salad is a most low-effort way to make this happen.
The final thing I absolutely love on a busy salad is some kind of candied, spicy, salty nut but I find almost every recipe for them to be too much work, or just too sticky. What I want is one that I could make a whole pan of (double the below for a whole pan) and store extras at room temperature, where they will stay crisp and not merge into one mega-cluster, to use as needed — on tomorrow’s salad, too, or a morning bowl of yogurt, or just snacks, so many snacks. I found the coolest trick buried in a restaurant recipe for their famous kale salad: rinsing (yes, rinsing) nuts and then tossing them with a little bit of powdered sugar, salt, and any spice you’d like (I’m using cayenne) bakes into crisp clusters. In the last year, I’ve used this innumerable times on almost every kind of nut and seed. Now, it’s your turn.
Smitten Kitchen Keepers will be out in just 32 days, which is so, so soon after being impossibly far away for so long.
* Book tour: Let’s hang out! All of the details and links to tickets, where necessary, for the late 2022 and early 2023 book tours are on the Events page. Don’t fret if I am not coming to your town as we are adding more cities and dates as we can. I’ll keep everything updated on the Events page.
* Order a signed cookbook: You can order signed and personalized copies of Smitten Kitchen Keepers, or my previous cookbooks, through The Strand Bookstore. Orders are due 11/2.
* A preorder thank you! Have you preordered Smitten Kitchen Keepers? Would you like to? As a thank you, I’m hosting a live virtual cooking class on November 9 at 7pm ET in which I get us all ready for (US) Thanksgiving with three recipes from the book I think are perfect for holiday tables. Save your receipt for the preordered book and enter the details on this form. The deadline to enter is 11/6.
6 months ago: Chicken Live Pate
1 year ago: Winter Squash and Spinach Pasta Bake
2 years ago: Skillet Turkey Chili
3 year ago: Chicken Curry
4 years ago: Even More Perfect Apple Pie
5 years ago: Quick Pasta and Chickpeas and Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
6 years ago: Garlic Wine and Butter Steamed Clams, Baked Alaska, Indian-Spiced Cauliflower Soup and Skillet-Baked Pasta with Five Cheeses
7 years ago: My Old-School Baked Ziti and Cannoli Pound Cake
8 years ago: Better Chicken Pot Pies and Better Chocolate Babka
9 years ago: Miso Sweet Potato and Broccoli Bowl and Purple Plum Torte
10 years ago: Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
11 years ago: Apple Pie Cookies
12 years ago: Mushroom Lasagna
13 years ago: Quiche Lorraine and Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp
14 years ago: Majestic and Moist Honey Cake, Best Challah (Egg Bread), and Mom’s Apple Cake
15 years ago: Peter Reinhart’s Bagels and Peanut Butter Brownies
16 years ago: Lemon Cake
Apple and Cheddar Crisp Salad
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 3 tablespoons (45 grams) apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon smooth dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) mayonnaise or Greek-style plain yogurt
- 6 tablespoons (80 grams) olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup (115 grams or 4 ounces) sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
- 1 cup (85 grams) sliced almonds
- 2 tablespoons (15 grams) powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
- 5 ounces (140 grams) kale leaves, any variety, cut into thin ribbons [see Note]
- 1 large crisp apple, halved, cored, and cut thin
Start the dressing: In a medium bowl, combine shallot and apple cider vinegar and set aside while you make the crispy stuff.
Make cheddar crisps and sugared almonds: Line a large (half-sheet size) rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Scatter cheddar evenly over half the parchment, in about a 8×12-inch, 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Sprinkle with a little cayenne or black pepper, if you wish.
In a colander, rinse almonds under cold water (yes, really!) and shake off excess liquid. In a bowl, toss wet almonds with powdered sugar, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne until evenly coated. Spread on second half of parchment-covered baking sheet in a thin, even layer, leaving an inch around it bare so it can spread.
Bake almonds and cheddar together for 4 to 9 minutes, until the cheese is melted into a lacy, evenly deep golden brown crisp and the almonds are dark at the edges and lightly golden throughout. Please hear me on this: Watch it closely. Both the cheddar and the almonds will go from not-yet-golden to perfectly bronzed to burnt in what feels like a one-minute period. Check it at 4 minutes, then every minute or two thereafter until the pan is just right. Remove and let cool while you finish the salad.
Finish the dressing: To the shallots and vinegar in the bowl, whisk in dijon, mayo or yogurt, then drizzle in olive oil, whisking the whole time. Season dressing with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
Assemble: In a large wide bowl or salad plate, toss greens with 2/3 the dressing to start, then tasting and adding the rest if you wish. Arrange the apple over the greens, fanning out slices. Break off clustered of almonds from the baking sheet and scatter them over the salad. If the cheddar crisp seems very oily, you can blot it with a paper towel, before tearing or cutting it into large bite-size pieces and scattering them over the salad. Season the salad with additional salt and pepper and serve right away.
Do ahead: The nuts can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a week. The cheese crisps are best kept the fridge, lightly covered. The dressing will keep for several days in the fridge. Washed and blotted dry kale keeps in a large zipped bag in the fridge for several days, provided you keep it out of the spots that are prone to freezing produce (or maybe this is just my terrible fridge).