Green Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

I made this salad on Saturday evening to go with the cassoulet, and it was the perfect counterpoint to the comforting stew. When I was in college I worked at a small fancy-ish restaurant, and I learned a LOT about food while working there. The chef took me under his wing because he saw that I was really interested in food, and was always having me taste his new dishes, or would save a special dish or two once in awhile for my dinner after-shift. One of my favorite things to eat, though, was this salad. After running around the restaurant for 6 hours, a crisp salad always hit the spot (and was easier on the wallet, with the staff discount).

The salad combines a crisp vinaigrette on mixed greens, with granny smith apples, candied pecans, a sprinkling of dried cherries and bleu cheese. This salad was especially good because I had some special cheese on hand that I got through my meat CSA, Hook’s Tilston Point. The cheese is so good – it’s a little funkier than your average bleu, a little saltier, and a lot creamier. Seriously, I could eat this cheese with a spoon…and it is disappearing from the fridge all too fast.

The vinaigrette really brings the salad together. Champagne vinegar is my new favorite for salad dressings. It’s tart, light, and not too sour, and brightens any dressing. Making your own salad dressing is so simple – if you haven’t done it, give it a try – you won’t be sorry.

Champagne Vinaigrette
serves: 6
3 Weight Watchers points per serving (dressing only)

2 T champagne vinegar
3 T olive oil
1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp maple syrup
salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Pour the vinegar, mustard and maple syrup in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Drizzle olive oil in slowly, whisking constantly, until the dressing comes together and the oil and vinegar blend. Season with salt and ground pepper to taste.

Mixed greens, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 granny smith apple, cored, and sliced thinly
3 T dried cherries
2 oz bleu cheese, crumbled
3 T pecan pieces
1 tsp maple syrup, fresh ground pepper

To make candied pecans: Place pecans in a small, nonstick pan, and toast over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Drizzle maple syrup over the pecans and stir quickly. Add pepper, stir, and then pour the pecans out onto a bit of parchment paper, and place in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Making the salad: Place greens in a large bowl, pour some of the dressing over the greens and toss with tongs. If needed, add more dressing, until the salad is perfectly dressed, but not drenched in dressing. Place greens in your serving bowl, then sprinkle the apples, cherries, bleu cheese and pecans over the top. Serve.