This recipe is a testament to my trusty formula for a stunning and substantial winter salad: hearty greens + vinaigrette + toasted nuts + seasonal fruit + cheese = wonderful. With a multitude of possible ingredients, it is an open invitation to explore all the variables, changing it up to reflect what looks best at the market or what inspires you.
For the greens, I am partial to the pleasant bitterness and rough texture of those in the chicory-endive family such as frisee and escarole. (Perhaps surprisingly, so is my teenage daughter.) But spinach, kale and arugula are also good options. The vinaigrette the greens are tossed with welcomes plenty of ingredient play, too, and can take on a totally different nuance with a simple change of the acid or oil. The one in this recipe is my go-to — sharp and mustardy with a hint of sweetness — made with extra-virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar (for its mellow acidity and depth of flavor), Dijon mustard, chopped shallot and a touch of honey.
The nuts, which I always toast to bring out the most flavor, can be walnuts, pecans, pistachios, almonds, pine nuts — you name it. For the fruit, you could go seasonal with apples, pears, persimmon, pomegranate or citrus. But I have opted for grapes here, also in season. They are delicious freshly sliced in a salad, but even more luscious, surprising and sweet when roasted first. The fruit plays well off the tangy blue cheese, but any bold-tasting cheese will work. I sometimes use shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano, dollops of fresh goat cheese or crumbles of feta, for example.
Whether you make this recipe as written or add your own spin, you will wind up with a beautiful, seasonal plate to grace your holiday table or serve as a light weeknight meal.
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From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.
1 cup seedless red grapes
⅓ cup walnut or pecan pieces
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon plus 1 pinch salt
⅛ teaspoon plus 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
1½ tablespoons sherry vinegar
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon minced shallot
4 cups lightly packed, coarsely chopped or torn chicory, escarole or frisee
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 400 degrees.
Spread the grapes on one rimmed baking sheet and the nuts on a separate baking sheet. Drizzle the grapes with 1 teaspoon of the oil, then sprinkle with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast the grapes (upper rack) for about 20 minutes, until they are tender and lightly browned yet still retain their shape. Toast the nuts (lower rack) simultaneously, but for only 10 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned. Let both the grapes and the nuts cool.
Whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, the vinegar, mustard, honey and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt and ⅛ teaspoon of pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk in the shallot.
Toss the greens with the dressing in a large bowl, then divide among individual plates. Scatter the roasted grapes, nuts and blue cheese over each portion. Serve right away.
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