Autumn Salad with Apples, Comté, and Hazelnuts

SaladThe Big Cheese

Cheese is good. I have always been a big fan of cheese in many forms, though I DO draw the line at spray cheese. ( My sister, on the other hand…)And don’t forget the Earthquake Velveta  buried in the back of my Mom’s  pantry. Uh, no thanks. I would rather perish!

Around the holidays I find that I eat much more cheese than usual. (Of course I am eating a lot more than usual of a lot of things, but it’s the holidays, who am I to fight tradition?)

Cheese is one of the easiest things to nibble on at parties, and since there are numerous parties during this time, the chances of finding oneself in front of a cheese plate or creamy baked brie are pretty good. In fact a cheese plate with an assortment of interesting and not your everyday cheeses is my easy,  go-to potluck contribution. (It’s also a great way to get a conversation going, ”This cheese is awesome!” “Oh, what is it?”)

There are plenty of ways to incorporate some really good cheese into your holiday meals. Cheesy dips are a no-brainer and cheese balls are always festive. (The real ones. Not the neon orange things, and not your Uncle Bob.)

One of my favorite ways to enjoy a little cheesy decadence is in a salad. Most people add goat cheese, or feta, or even crumbled blue to their salads– which is great, but don’t under estimate the power of a good, nutty Parrano Gouda or Emmenthaler. When cut into matchstick sized pieces and tossed into mixed greens with some dried cranberries or cherries, these hard cheeses are darn good.

A favorite salad with cheese is this Autumn Salad with Apples and Comte. The Cider vinaigrette alone is straw worthy. This dish would make a great addition to your Thanksgiving table or any other celebration.

Autumn Salad with Apples, Comté, and Hazelnuts
Adapted from Crescent City Cooking by Susan Spicer
Makes 4 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes

8 cups mixed greens, washed and dry
1 medium apple (Granny Smith or other firm, tart-sweet variety),peeled and thinly sliced into matchsticks
2 to 3 ounces Comte cheese, sliced into matchsticks
¼ cup celery hearts sliced into coins
3/4 cup Cider Dressing (approximately)
¼ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

In a large bowl, using your hands or two wooden spoons, toss together the lettuce, apple, cheese, and celery hearts. Drizzle in enough dressing to lightly coat the salad. Reserve any remaining dressing. Lightly season the salad with salt if needed, and divide among four plates. Sprinkle salad with hazelnuts and drizzle with equal portions of the remaining Cider Dressing.

Cider Dressing
Makes about 3/4 cup

1 cup apple cider or juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
I tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ cup pure olive oil or a mild vegetable oil
1 teaspoon hazelnut oil
Salt and pepper

Place the cider and vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the mixture is reduced to 3 tablespoons of liquid. Pour it into a small bowl and add the shallots and mustard. Whisk to combine, then slowly whisk in the olive oil and the hazelnut oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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