Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Autumn Salad, NPR, and Choosing the Right Apple

It's good to share, and today I share with you one of my favorite food blogs. It comes from NPR's Lynn Rossetto Kasper who hosts a radio show of the same name, "The Splendid Table." Once a week I receive a delicious message via email with a new recipe. This week Lynn offers "Romaine Salad with Chicken, Cheddar, Apple, and Spiced Pecans." I immediately thought of you, my sixteen registered readers (and all of you who drop by for a visit) and decided that it is time to share. Note: the beautiful painting of a cranberry bog posted with this entry is by Johanna Bohoy, linked below.

Back to the luscious salad: Lynn credits "Cook's Illustrated" and "America's Test Kitchen" with this recipe, and adds her own words (be sure to see her tips for choosing apples at the bottom):

"A tart cranberry dressing, slivers of Granny Smith apples, cheddar with snap, and lots of crunch from the pecans — this is autumn in a bowl. Jockey this salad to suit the moment. For instance, store-bought chicken is just fine, or leave the chicken out entirely. If time isn't there for the spiced pecans, use whatever nut you like and sprinkle a little of the spice over the greens.

Reprinted with permission from More Best Recipes by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen. Copyright © 2009 by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated. Published by America's Test Kitchen, 2009, Brookline, MA.
Serves 4

Raspberry vinegar gives this dressing a distinct fruity flavor; however, red wine vinegar can be substituted. If the dressing seems too thick, thin it out with additional cranberry juice or water. "

Dried Cranberry Vinaigrette:
• 1/4 cup cranberry juice
• 1/4 cup dried cranberries
• 1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
• 1 medium shallot, peeled
• 1 small garlic clove, peeled
• 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
• 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
• Salt and ground black pepper
• 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
• Salt and ground black pepper
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 1 large head romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces (about 10 cups)
• 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
• 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced thin
• 1/2 recipe Spiced Pecans (recipe follows)
• 1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
• 1/4 cup dried cranberries

1. For the Vinaigrette: Combine the cranberry juice and dried cranberries in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high power until hot, about 1 minute. Process the hot cranberry mixture, vinegar, shallot, garlic, thyme, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a blender until the shallot and garlic are finely chopped, about 15 seconds. With the blender running, add the oil and continue to process until smooth and emulsified, about 15 seconds.

2. For the Salad: Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the chicken and cook until browned on one side, about 3 minutes.

3. Flip the chicken over, add 1/2 cup water, and cover. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook until the thickest part of the chicken registers 160 to 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 5 to 7 minutes longer. Transfer to a carving board and cool slightly.

4. Toss the lettuce, cheddar, apple, pecans, onion, and dried cranberries with 3/4 cup of the vinaigrette. Divide the salad among individual plates. Slice the chicken on the bias and arrange over the greens. Spoon the remaining vinaigrette over the chicken or pass separately. Serve immediately.

Makes about 2 cups
These nuts can be stored in a zipper-lock bag at room temperature for up to 1 week. If adding to a salad, be sure to shake off any extra sugar first.

• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
• 2 cups pecan halves
• 1 tablespoon sugar

1. Melt the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the salt, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, then stir in the pecans. Toast the nuts, stirring often, until the color of the nuts deepens slightly, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, toss with the sugar, then spread out on a plate to cool.


• Coarsely crushed salted almonds could be substituted for the pecans.
• Other cheeses can stand in for the cheddar. Experiment. Try crumbled blue cheeses, feta, Sardo, Gouda, or a firm and crumbly chevre.
• A bowl of butternut squash soup would be good with this, too.
• Cider is the best thing to drink with this supper — sweet for the kids, hard cider for the grown ups. With only about 4% alcohol, you'll still be in fine shape to help with homework.


If you have any doubt about how the heirloom movement and it's accompanying concept of "grow for taste, not just looks" has affected what's in the market, take a look at the apple selection. Granted, all the varieties aren't to be found everywhere, but more choices show up each year. To figure out what to do with each kind, see if this guide helps. Each of these varieties has distinctive character.


Firm Apples for Pie, Cobblers, etc: Chestnut Crab (a personal favorite), Connell Red, Fireside, Granny Smith (the great stalwart tart cooking apple), Haralson (another trusty tart pie apple), Keepsake, Liberty, Northern and Prairie Spy (two additional tart stalwarts), Regent, and Rhode Island Greening (another old time tart gem).

Chunky Apples for Pie, Sauce and Baking Whole: Baldwin, Cortland, Fuji, Green Pippin, Honeycrisp (exceptional flavor and texture), Hubbardston Nonesuch, Ida Red, Ozark Gold, Paula Red, Reine des Reinette (extraordinary flavor), Roxbury Russet, State Fair, and Zestar.

Tender Apples for Sauce and Baking Whole: Beacon, Jonathan, King David, MacIntosh, Macoun, Mutsu, Red Baron, Wealthy, and Winesap.

Link to The Splendid Table and Lynn Rossetto Kasper:

Photo credit: painting by Johanna Bohoy '08:

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