I've staked my claim before against overly-fancified salads, full of fruit and nuts and other frivolity. How many endive, blue cheese, and candied walnut recipes can one world eat? Give me a bowl of good farmers' market greens and nothing else, and I'm generally more than happy. Yet apple season and countless beets at the market led me to this recipe on the River Cottage website, which uses hazelnuts (something I've never put in a salad before) and aged English cheddar.
The only heating needed is to toast the nuts, which led to my lesson: hazelnuts pretty much skin themselves if you toast them for a few minutes. Otherwise, it's just a matter of thinly slicing the beets and apples and crumbling a little cheese.
Since the beets are raw, which preserves its antioxidant qualities (a nice health benefit), it's essential to slice them as thinly as possible (a mandoline, even a cheap plastic one, really helps). Uncooked, they have a pleasant sweetness and crunch, as does the apple. The dressing is nothing more than cider vinegar, a pinch of salt and sugar, and two kinds of oil—a little olive oil for its flavor, but also neutral sunflower oil so the flavors underneath still come through.
- 1 crisp eating apple
- 1 small, raw beet, about the same size as the apple
- 3 good handfuls of salad leaves
- 3 1/2 ounces mature, crumbly cheddar, thinly sliced
- 2 ounces hazelnuts
- 1 tablespoon hempseed or olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- A pinch each of salt and sugar
- Freshly cracked black pepper
In the bottom of a large salad bowl, combine the vinegar, salt, and freshly cracked black pepper. Add the olive or hempseed oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly, to create an emulsion. Continue adding the rest of the oil in the same manner.
In a medium skillet, toast the hazelnuts over medium-high heat. If they are unskinned, toast until the skins crack then gather in a kitchen towel and roughly rub them together. The skins should slip away easily. Return to the skillet to toast.
Halve, core, and thinly slice the apple. Peel, trim, and thinly slice the beet. Add the salad greens to the bowl and toss, then add the apple and beetslices and the nuts. Crumble the cheddar slices over the top and finish with black pepper.