Sometimes there’s a salad that you like, but don’t love, and then you change a few things about it and suddenly it’s your new favorite salad. That’s what happened with this salad, a familiar combination of apples and fennel and walnuts and golden raisins and arugula. It’s one you can probably find in my archives and that recipe in my archives is good but not great. This one is great. What’s the difference?
The difference is a clove of garlic grated on a microplane into the dressing. The garlic somehow elevates this salad from the realm of “possible health food” into something that feels slightly naughty. Also, in this version, I shave the Parmesan with a vegetable peeler.
Let me walk you through it:
Start by making the dressing. In a jar, spoon in some Dijon mustard, squeeze in the juice of a lemon, pour in a tablespoon or two of white wine vinegar, grate in a clove of garlic using a microplane grater, add a pinch of salt, a grind or two of pepper, and about 3/4 cup to 1 cup of olive oil. Put the lid on the jar and shake like crazy. Then taste: does it need more vinegar? More salt? Is it too bracing? Add more oil. Then set aside to allow the garlic to infuse while you make the rest of the salad.
It helps if you enlist your friend Diana:
Have Diana slice fennel into thin slices only, you realize that you don’t have fennel so you sub in celery (when I made this the first time, this new good version on Friday night, I had fennel; on Saturday it was celery); then slice an apple into thin slices. Add a few handfuls of arugula, walnuts that you toast until fragrant in a little skillet, and a sprinkling of golden raisins. Shake your dressing again, drizzle a few spoonfuls on, toss all around and taste to see if it needs more.
Then, just before serving, use a vegetable peeler to peel large slivers of Parmesan into the salad. Toss those in and then, once in the bowls, shave a few right on top. Grind on some pepper.
This is really good stuff; a salad I’ll be making again and again until people get sick of it. But who could get sick of it? One garlic clove, and a few slivers of Parmesan, and you’re in salad heaven.