Apples and I have a bit of an Elizabeth Bennett-Mr. Darcy Pride and Prejudice type of relationship: hate at first sight, followed by reluctant appreciation, then passion. I'm ashamed to say how I loved to hear the satisfying ping of the hard, round Red Delicious apple my mother packed for me, as it hit the bottom of the metal cafeteria wastebasket, uneaten, everyday at lunchtime for many years.
Then, during my adolescence of not-so-conscientious dieting, I'd log a Granny Smith as a perfect hundred calories in my list of what I ate on one of my "good" days (apples have 15 calories per ounce, incidentally, for those who want a more exact measurement). As opposed to a McDonald's or Hostess Apple Pie kind of day.
Now I love apples in an uncomplicated, wholehearted fashion. (I also have a fantasy about Colin Firth, who played Mr. Darcy in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, feeding me apple slices on an English field during a private picnic, but that discussion is more appropriate for a different type of forum).
I don't know exactly when my love switched to hate, perhaps at my first sweet, satisfying bite of a Pink Lady or Fuji, or from one of the locally-grown fruit from Eastmont Orchards near my home. It's hard to tell if the quality of the apples I ate got better, or if my eating habits did—probably a bit of both.
Given that the weather is still warm, but apple-picking season is upon us, incorporating apples into salads seems natural. Of course, you can choose whatever apple is local and suits your taste preference, but I must say that I find apples specifically designed for eating like Pink Ladies, Fujis, and Empires to be my favorites.
Five Apple Salad Ideas
1. The ubiquitous Waldorf, of course—in its many varieties, mayo-laden and otherwise.
2. However, my favorite variety of apple salad is simply cut-up apples, cashews, Craisins, and a mix of golden and regular raisins. Chinese noodles if I'm feeling particularly ambitious, along with chopped Quorn to amp up the protein content. (For meat eaters, turkey and chicken are the natural pairing with what is often called a "harvest" salad).
3. Pairing apples with cheese can be as delightfully complicated as pairing cheese with wine—but I usually like to keep it simple. A sliced Honeycrisp, some cubed cheddar and a handful of walnuts or even peanuts.
4. A more elegant cheese and apple combination is a mellow-flavored apple like a Golden Delicious, paired with Gorgonzola or Blue, Craisins, and pecans, sprinkled with some good balsamic or apple cider vinegar.
5. Chopped, tart apples like Granny Smiths can be substituted in most mayo or mustard based "salads" like egg salad or chicken salad.
And finally, I have to bring this up, because although I haven't tried it, I just can't look away. I saw pages and pages of recipes for...Snickers Apple Salad. That's right, cut-up Snickers, peanuts, Cool Whip, pudding mix, caramel cubes and apples. Has anyone ever seen or tried this?
And what are your (other) favorite apple salad combinations?