Apple Pecan Salad offers an alluring fusion of crunchy and creamy textures and autumnal flavors. Imagine juicy, crisp apples, peppery arugula, buttery pecans and creamy gorgonzola cheese. Each bite is an invitation to savor the essence of fall, but with the versatility of a salad that can be enjoyed any time of year.
The simplicity of this dish is its strength. The medley of fresh ingredients comes alive with a homemade Maple Vinaigrette that's both tangy and sweet. Whether for a special occasion or a casual weekday lunch, this salad promises to bring a touch of elegance to your table in just 15 minutes.
Ingredients You Need to Make Apple Pecan Salad
For the Salad
- Apples: Choose firm apples with smooth skin. They should be free from soft spots or blemishes.
- Pecans: Look for plump pecans that have a rich, buttery aroma. They should not be shriveled or have any sour smell, which could indicate they've gone rancid.
- Baby Arugula: The leaves should be vibrant green and look fresh. Avoid any with yellowing or wilting.
- Gorgonzola Cheese: The cheese should have a creamy texture and a strong but not overpowering smell. Avoid any with excessive moisture or mold outside of its characteristic veining.
For the Maple Vinaigrette
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Choose one with a clean, tangy aroma. A cloudy appearance or slight sediment at the bottom typically indicates it's unfiltered and contains the "mother," meaning it's live and contains beneficial bacteria.
- Lemon: Choose lemons that are bright yellow with a slightly glossy look. They should feel firm and heavy for their size, which indicates they're juicy.
- Maple Syrup: Opt for pure maple syrup. It should be dark and have a thin consistency. Avoid syrups with added sugars or artificial flavorings.
- Shallot: Choose a shallot that is firm to the touch with no soft spots. The skin should be tight and crisp, not wrinkled.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Look for a bottle that's stored in dark glass to protect it from light. The oil should have a fresh, fruity aroma.
- Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Apple Appeal: For the best flavor and texture, opt for Honeycrisp, Fuji, Gala, or Braeburn apples. Each brings its distinct sweetness and crunch to the salad.
- Vinegar Variety: If you don't have apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar are good alternatives.
- Cheese Choices: Not a fan of gorgonzola? Feta, goat cheese or blue cheese can serve as flavorful replacements.
- Greens Swap: Trade baby arugula for baby spinach or mixed greens for a milder base.
- Sweet Substitutes: For a different kind of sweetness, consider honey instead of maple syrup in the vinaigrette.
- Onion Crunch: Add thinly sliced red onions for an extra layer of zesty flavor.
- Freshness Factor: Add a burst of freshness with a handful of fresh basil or mint leaves.
- Nut Options: Swap out pecans for toasted walnuts or almonds for a varied nutty texture.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Overdressing: It's tempting to use all the vinaigrette, but start by drizzling a portion, then toss. Too much can make the salad soggy and overpowering.
- Early Mixing: Avoid mixing the vinaigrette with the salad too early. If it sits too long, the arugula can wilt and the apples can lose their crispness.
- Wrong Apple Cut: Cutting apples into overly large chunks can make the salad harder to eat and balance flavors. Aim for thin slices or bite-size pieces.
- Premature Apple Prep: Cutting the apples too far in advance is a misstep. Apples brown quickly once exposed to air, detracting from the freshness and visual appeal of your salad. Try to cut them just before serving to ensure they remain crisp and vibrant.
This salad is best enjoyed fresh, but you can make the dressing up to a week in advance. Store the other ingredients in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator and assemble the salad just before serving.
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How to Make Apple Pecan Salad
In a bowl, combine vinegar, lemon juice, maple syrup, and shallot. Slowly add oil, whisking for a smooth blend. Season with salt and pepper.
Mix arugula and apples in a bowl, adding dressing to taste. Gently toss to coat and transfer to salad bowl or platter, doing your best to distribute apples evenly. Top with gorgonzola and pecans to serve.
Apple Pecan Salad
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice from about ½ a small lemon
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ½ small shallot minced
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 5 ounces baby arugula
- 2 small apples your favorite variety, cored and cut into bite size chunks (about ½-inch)
- 2 ounces crumbled gorgonzola cheese crumbled
- 2 ounces pecans toasted if desired and coarsely chopped, see recipe note #1
- In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, maple syrup and shallot. Add olive oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Place arugula in a large bowl and top with apple chunks. Drizzle desired amount of dressing over and toss well to coat.
- Transfer salad to serving bowl or platter (taking care to keep the apples well distributed). Sprinkle evenly with gorgonzola cheese and pecans; serve.
- To toast pecans: Place a small dry skillet over medium heat until hot. Add pecans; cook and stir 4 to 5 minutes until nuts are fragrant and lightly golden. Transfer to a small bowl to cool. (Don't leave the nuts in the hot skillet to cool as they burn easily.) Coarsely chop once they're cool enough to handle.