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Just when I start to lament the end of summer and all of the juicy nectarines we've been eating, fall shows up with crisp, delicious apples.
A couple of weeks ago we did one of our favorite there and back hikes (not a loop) - 8 miles of pine forest and waterfalls, past Tumalo Falls up the North Fork Trail to Happy Valley. We had two honeycrisp apples in our packs - the first of the year. A reward for reaching the half way point at Happy Valley. I won't lie, despite the mind blowing natural beauty, my thoughts often drifted to my waiting treat. Would it be everything I hoped for: crisp, sweet, juicy? It did not disappoint.
I'd intended to use honeycrisp apples for this salad, but there weren't any at the farmer's market. Instead I bought the only variety I could find at a small stall on the edge of the market. They were small, red streaked and felt crisp. When I asked what kind of apples they were, "I don't know, I picked them off my neighbor's tree." was the reply. At $2 a pound I didn't mind.
This is the easiest salad to prepare - you can make it in about 10 minutes, including the maple dijon vinaigrette. About the vinaigrette, it's delicious on this but would also brighten any kind of green or pasta salad or could be used as a marinade for chicken or pork. As for the apple variety, just use your favorite. I love to serve this with a hot bowl of soup like Tomato Bisque, French Onion Soup, Winter Squash Soup or Pasta e Fagioli.
Speaking of which, what is your favorite apple variety? Is crispness or flavor more important to you?
Apple and Fennel Salad with Walnuts and Maple Dijon Vinaigrette
For the Vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the Salad
- 1 large apple or 2 small, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 small fennel bulb cored and cut into thin strips
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
- shaved Pecorino Romano cheese to taste
- To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl whisk together the first 4 ingredients (maple syrup through chives). Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Add apple slices and fennel strips to a medium bowl. Pour vinaigrette over and toss to coat and combine. Divide between two serving bowls. Top each with ½ of the chopped walnuts and several shavings of Pecorino Romano cheese.