Apple Escarole Salad

A couple of weekends ago marked a first for me.  For the first time ever, this bona fide city girl picked an apple off of a tree.  Remarkable, right?!  Yeah, okay, not so much…

Matt and I ventured upstate to the Catskills area to a farm that allows the public to descend upon them every fall and ransack pick their orchards for all the apples you can possibly handle.  We chose a gorgeous Sunday and drove the 90 minutes past the city to a charming little farm.  They grilled us corn on the cob and hot dogs for lunch, after which we walked around the property admiring the chickens, rabbits, and sheep. Then we thud-thud-thudded our little sports car over a mercifully short gravel road to reach the orchards.  There, we walked through rows and rows of apple trees, picking at our leisure.  Apparently, the apples came about a week ahead of schedule this season, so we had to walk deep into the orchards to find any low hanging fruit, as it were.  But found it we did, to the tune of one and a half bushels of four different kinds of apples!

Thus, I’ve been on something of a tear lately, trying to use them up before they spoil.  Fortunately, apples have a long shelf life if stored properly, so we’re still going strong.  I knew I’d be making lots of dessert recipes with my stash, but I wanted plenty of savory dishes as well.  This salad seemed perfect.

And can I just tell you that this is one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten?  It was truly amazing and so satisfying.  The apples were simply sliced, not even peeled, so you could enjoy their tart and sweet crispness.  The escarole was slightly bitter, but buttery and clean tasting. And the bitterness was offset by the sweetness of the apples.  Hazelnuts, such an ideal pairing with apples anyway, lent a necessary crunch to the dish, and the blue cheese added a sour note to balance the whole dish out.  We both raved.  I can’t wait to make this again.  Hopefully you enjoy it as much as we did.

Source: adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, October/November 2012

2 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tbs minced shallot
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and black pepper
6 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2 oz. whole, shelled, skinned hazelnuts
2 large apples, quartered, cored, and sliced thin
1 lb. escarole, torn or cut into bite-size pieces
3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Add the hazelnuts to a small, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Toast until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then coarsely chop.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, shallot, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in the oil in a slow, steady stream until incorporated.
In a large bowl, toss the apples with 1 tbs of the dressing. Add the escarole, cheese, parsley, and hazelnuts. Toss with the remaining dressing and serve.

6 side servings

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