Apple, Watercress and Stilton Salad
This elegant winter salad was a wonderful light first course at our gourmet group's dinner. It was a perfect start before our heartier winter entreé, Shrimp Creole. The dressing is lightened with roasted and puréed apple and onion and then finished with a reduction of balsamic vinegar...delicious!
The recipe comes from another New Orleans cookbook that I picked up along the way... Commander's Kitchen by Martin and Shannon. It is filled with tasty recipes that are fun to make and sample!
Apple, Watercress, and Stilton Salad
2 cups balsamic vinegar
3 apples, any variety
5 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium red onion, cut in half top to bottom and thinly sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup apple brandy
1 cup large walnut pieces
3 bunches watercress, stems removed at base, cleaned and spun dry
1 cup crumbled Stilton cheese
Reduce the vinegar ahead of time, if desired. Bring it to a boil in a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until it is reduced in volume to about 1/3 cup, the bubbles seem smaller, and the liquid thickens. Be careful not to burn it. Pour the reduction into a small container and refrigerate until needed.
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Core, seed and thinly slice one of the apples and place in a small roasting pan. Add the garlic, half the onion, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, and the salt and pepper and toss to coat with the oil. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the mixture is brown and tender. Remove from the oven and pour the brandy into the pan, scraping up any glaze that might be clinging to the bottom. Purée the mixture in a blender or food processor, slowly drizzle in the remaining oil, scrape the bowl, and blend the dressing for a few more seconds.
Reduce the oven heat to 350° F. Spread the walnut pieces out on a small baking pan and roast for about 15 minutes, taking care not to burn them.
Core, seed, and thinly slice the remaining two apples. Toss the watercress, the remaining onion, and the apples with the dressing in a large bowl. Adjust the salt and pepper if necessary. Divide the salad among 8 plates and sprinkle an equal amount of cheese and walnuts over each. Drizzle some of the chilled vinegar around the edge of each plate and on top of the salad.
I really enjoyed the combination of flavors in this salad....very light and tasty!