I first had this salad a few years back at Nick’s Cove on Tomales Bay, which was then in one of its periods of superb cooking — since ended, alas. It was so good that I made up a recipe that is true to the original. This wonderful salad is super seasonal, relying on the gorgeous pink pearl apples that show up for just a couple of weeks in early September. While other tart apples can be used for the salad with no taste diminishment, the vivid color of the small pink pearls takes it into an unsurpassed visual realm. I buy these apples at the downtown Palo Alto farmers market from a Sonoma County apple farmer but they occasionally — very occasionally — show up in high-end markets. In this recipe, the combination of the bitter endive, tart apples, sweet-sour gastrique, meaty walnuts and pungent blue cheese stops all conversation. A gastrique is a simple French sweet-sour sauce without fat and kicks up all kinds of dishes.
Serves 4 or more, depending on serving size.
3-5 pink pearl apples or other tart apple
2-3 Belgian endives
roasted walnuts, roughly chopped (optimally, roasted right before assembly)
2-3 ounces of farmstead blue cheese such as Point Reyes blue, cut into chunks, room temperature
sherry vinegar dressing (see below)
sherry gastrique (see below)
– Core the applies and cut into thick matchsticks lengthwise. Toss with a little acidulated water (lemon juice added to water) to preserve color. Separate the leaves of the endives and cut into lengthwise slices.
– Drain the apples from the water, toss with the endive, dress with 2-3 T of dressing and arrange on individual plates.
– Add some cheese and some walnuts to each salad. Don’t overdo the quantity; the objective is a nice balance of ingredients.
– Drizzle some gastrique over the top of the salad and around the edges.
Sherry Vinegar Dressing
Dice 1 shallot; whisk 2 T sherry vinegar with 6 T extra virgin olive oil with the shallot. Extra dressing can be used for other dishes (this is a great basic dressing that’s good with all sorts of things).
Cook on the stove: 1/2 cup sherry vinegar, 1/2 cup sherry, 1/4 cup sugar or honey, pinch of salt. Cook until sugar is melted and alcohol is burned off. Mixture should be thick.