This week we were invited to a fall dinner.
I didn’t know what a fall dinner was, but the host and other friends invited are some of the best cooks I know. And fall? You mean apples and pumpkins and cinnamon and cloves…for dinner?
Absolutely, we’re in!
I sent the requisite message asking what we should bring. While I waited I had so many brilliant ideas. How about pumpkin bread? Ooh, or maybe I can try a new baked apples recipe. I’m pretty sure I have a pinterest page just for fall-ish baked goods. I can hardly wait to get started!
And then she answered. And my heart sank.
“Bring a salad??”
She had the audacity to add the “chagrin” emoji because she knew exactly what I was thinking: “I’m sorry. You seem to have me confused with someone who makes salads.”
But I’ve been teaching my son that sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do. So I hitched up my big girl pants, girded my loins, and answered her out loud (well, on text):
“Ok! It’ll be the best freaking salad I’ve ever made!”
And, not to toot my own horn or anything, but you guys, I did it. The best freaking salad.
Do yourselves a favor and click over to Half Baked Harvest, the mastermind behind this Autumn Harvest Honeycrisp Apple and Feta Salad. It is gorgeous, with gems of pomegranate seeds, maple-candied pecans and pumpkin seeds, slices of crisp, sweet apples, crispy prosciutto, tossed with tender greens in a maple vinaigrette.
The photos on Half Baked Harvest are to die for. And I can only imagine what I’ve been missing not knowing about her recipes before now.
The Autumn Harvest Salad Digest
(Some adjustments from the Half Baked Harvest recipe)
- (Start the first step early in the day if possible.) First, you’ll preheat the oven to 350 degrees to get it ready to roast your nuts and seeds and crisp up the prosciutto. Toss 1/2 cup pecan halves and 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (pepitas) with 3 tablespoons maple syrup, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch cayenne pepper, and a sprinkle of salt. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Lay 3 ounces of prosciutto around the nuts, (I used two baking sheets.)
- Roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes, watching closely near the end. (I burned some of my prosciutto, which nearly broke my heart.)
- When everything is crispy, remove the prosciutto and chop it into smaller pieces. The nuts crisped up as they cooled, and I sped up the process by putting my baking sheet into the freezer for a few minutes.
- Next, carefully break apart a pomegranate to get the beautiful, gem-like arils (seeds) from inside. I did this by making shallow cuts in the pomegranate with a knife and then tearing it with my hands. Try not to break the juicy seeds. Set them aside.
- Make your vinaigrette by mixing together 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (this is a lot of vinegar, but trust me, it works), 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon apple butter, and salt and pepper with 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. Your best bet here is to combine the first 5 ingredients and then whisk in olive oil last in a very slow stream. But if you want to you can just shake it all in a jar.
- Just before serving, chop up 2 honecrisp apples. (I did thin slices.)
- In a salad bowl, combine 6 cups arugula or spring mix greens. Add the apples, pomegranate seeds, pecans and pepitas, prosciutto, and 1/2 cup feta cheese. Add vinaigrette and toss.
- Nod and act humble when everyone tells you that this is the best freaking salad you’ve ever made.
Autumn Harvest Salad
- ½ cup pecan halves
- 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, shelled (pepitas)
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- pinch cayenne
- 3 oz. prosciutto
- 1 pomegranate
- 2 medium Honeycrisp apples, thinly sliced
- 6 cups arugula or spring mix greens
- ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp apple butter
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 °. In a bowl, toss the pecans and pepitas with the maple syrup, cinnamon, and cayenne.
- Spread the nuts and seeds on part of baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Lay the slices of prosciutto on the other side of the baking sheet. Roast for 10-12 minutes, watching carefully for burning. Cool completely. (The nuts will become more crispy as they cool.) Break up the nuts and seeds. Chop the crispy prosciutto into bite-sized pieces.
- Remove the arils (seeds) from the pomegranate. Set aside.
- Just before serving, in a large bowl, toss together the greens, pomegranate seeds, pecans and pepitas, proscuitto, apples, and feta. Add the maple vinaigrette and toss to serve.
For the Maple Vinaigrette
- In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, maple syrup, dijon, apple butter, and salt and pepper. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking continuously. Alternatively, shake all the ingredients in a jar.