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Apple Salad with Candied Walnuts and Roasted-Lemon Dressing

Bitter, buttery walnuts are a classic partner to crisp apples. Here, they’re candied, providing a sweet, crunchy foil to the creamy goat cheese and mildly tart dressing. Roasting lemons tempers their acidity, resulting in a mellower but more concentrated citrus flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lemons, halved
  • 2 tsp. plus 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) walnut halves and pieces
  • 2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 3 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 head green leaf lettuce, leaves torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 log (9 oz./280 g) fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400°F (200°C).

Place the lemon halves on a small rimmed baking sheet and drizzle evenly with the 2 tsp. olive oil. Roast until very soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C). When the lemon halves are cool enough to handle, squeeze 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) juice and set aside.

Rinse and dry the baking sheet and line it with aluminum foil. In a bowl, whisk the egg white briefly to loosen it, then pour off and discard half. Add the walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. of the salt and several grinds of pepper to the bowl with the egg white and toss to coat the nuts evenly. Spread the nuts in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast until dry and fragrant, about 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through.

As soon as the nuts are done, place the 1 1/2 Tbs. granulated sugar in a bowl, add the warm nuts and toss to coat. Pour the nuts into a sieve to remove the excess sugar. Let cool to room temperature.

In a small nonreactive bowl, whisk together the roasted-lemon juice, the 1 tsp. granulated sugar, the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt and several grinds of pepper until the sugar dissolves. Slowly whisk in the 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) olive oil until well blended to make a dressing. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Quarter and core the apples, then cut them lengthwise into thin wedges.

In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with 2 pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper. Whisk the dressing to recombine, then drizzle about half of it over the lettuce and toss well (reserve the remaining dressing for another use). Taste and adjust the seasonings. Divide the lettuce among 6 plates. Top with the apple slices and cheese, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Scatter the candied walnuts on top and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Salads, by Dina Cheney (Oxmoor House, 2009).