You don’t often think about turning on your oven to make a salad, but that’s exactly what I did after flipping through Suzannne Goin’s AOC Cookbook during the build-up to lunch on Saturday. My usual salads are normally quick affairs of tearing up some lettuce, drizzling on some good olive oil (lately it’s Séka Hills), and my beloved white Balsamic.
Chef Goin has you toast walnuts in the oven for her chopped salad (which this isn’t), but I liked the idea. As I was getting ready to do that, I remembered Nicole Rucker’s trick of cooking bacon on a cookie sheet at 375 (see: my most excellent BLT). So I popped some bacon in there along with the walnuts and suddenly this salad was seeming very promising.
As for the other elements, I bought some Pink Pearl apples from All Time in Los Feliz which I was very excited about because, get this, they’re pink on the inside.
I also bought what I thought were shallots but were kind of spring onions? (Actually, I think they’re shallots again.) Plus I had some wilting celery in the fridge which I brought back to life in a bowl of very cold water and then sliced.
As for the dressing, I whisked together a big spoonful of Dijon, a splash of Sherry vinegar, and enough olive oil to emulsify. I do all of this in a big bowl, then pour all of it out, add the lettuce, the celery, the apples, the spring onions/shallots (scallions are a good alt), the chopped toasted walnuts, and the chopped crispy bacon, and toss everything with just the residual dressing and add more if necessary. Then, at the very end, I add some crumbled Feta (Roquefort would’ve been more ideal, but Feta was a good substitute).
As you can see, this is not a Waldorf salad — no mayonnaise, no grapes, it’s not gloppy — but it’s in the world of a Waldorf salad. And that key combination of apples, toasted walnuts, crispy bacon, and cheese (either Feta or Roquefort) is so dreamy, you can call it whatever you want, you’ll be too busy stuffing your face to worry about a name.
So the next time you’re making a salad, move to the oven before you move to the refrigerator if you know what’s good for you.
“This Is Not A Waldorf” Salad
- 5 strips raw bacon, preferably Applewood smoked I like Neuske’s.
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1 heaping Tbs Dijon mustard
- 3 Tbs Sherry vinegar
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 2 small apples, cored and sliced thin
- 2 pieces celery, sliced (plus leaves, if you have some)
- 1 bunch scallions, sliced (both white and green parts)
- 2 cups assorted lettuce leaves (Boston lettuce, little gem, etc.), torn
- 1/2 cup crumbled Feta or Roquefort or other blue cheese that you like
Heat the oven to 375. Place the bacon strips on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake until crispy, about 15 – 20 minutes. Carefully remove and pour off the bacon fat for another use.
Meanwhile, toast the walnuts on a separate cookie sheet. Cook 5 to 7 minutes until fragrant and a golden brown.
Let the first ingredients cool while you make the dressing. In a large bowl, whisk together the Dijon and Sherry vinegar and add oil, a little at a time, until it emulsifies. Taste and if it’s too acidic, keep adding oil. Season with salt and pepper. Then pour the dressing out into a small bowl.
In the same large bowl, add the apples, the celery, the scallions, the lettuce, the chopped walnuts (oh yeah: chop the walnuts), and the crumbled bacon (you can crumble it or chop it with a knife). Toss with the dressing that’s already coating the bowl and add more dressing as you need it. Add the crumbled cheese, continue tossing, and taste for salt and pepper.
Blood Orange, Date, and Parmesan Salad (Suzanne Goin, NYT)
Arugula, Grape, and Almond Salad with Saba Dressing (Suzanne Goin, Bon Appetit)