I’m sure when I grew up in the “olden days” there was a variety of apples available, but really, all I remember was the Red Delicious Apple. Now I certainly don’t want to offend any apple growers out there who grow the Red Delicious, or insult avid fans of the Red Delicious, but it’s because of that particular fruit that I never really took a liking to apples. Unfortunately the Red Delicious is a mealy apple that’s not crisp or sweet or appealing in any way. Please don’t be mad at me for saying this, but I think it’s the truth.
Okay, fast forward to modern times. So, I walk into my local Whole Foods the other day and was overwhelmed by the sheer variety of apples they had for sale. You name it, Gala, Fuji, Jazz, Honeycrisp and Ambrosia, just to name a few. I couldn’t decide which variety to go with, so I bought them all.
Now, armed with a plethora of fall apples, came the decision of what to do with them. I had been to a restaurant the day before call Gjelina in Venice, California (which was quite hip and happening, I must say) and had their apple salad. I loved it so much I decided to recreate it at home. This Apple & Cheddar Salad is the perfect beginning to an autumn dinner or a Saturday brunch. The sweet crunch of the apples goes perfectly with the saltiness of the cheese.
Apple & Cheddar Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
- 2 large crisp apples, any variety
- 2 stalks of celery
- 4 ounces of good quality cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1 head of mustard greens
- Mustard Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- pinch of sugar
- 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Place first 6 ingredients in a small jar and shake real well. Add in the olive oil and shake vigorously again so that dressing begins to thicken. I make the dressing a day in advance so that the flavors meld together. Refrigerate for up to one week.
- Place pine nuts in a small, frying pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until nuts begin to brown and release their natural oils. Place in a small dish to cool and set aside.
- With a sharp knife, chop your celery stalks crosswise into thin slices, or use a mandolin. Set aside.
- Thinly chop your mustard greens (chiffonade) and toss into a bowl or your can individually plate 4 separate salads.
- With a sharp knife, thinly slice the cheddar cheese and set aside.
- You can use a mandolin to slice the apples in round slices, or use a sharp knife to slice the apples into thin wedges, removing the core and seeds. Place the apple slices into a bowl of acidulated water. When you’re ready to plate your salad, take slices out of water, and pat dry.
- Plate all ingredients onto individual plates, or combine into a large bowl and toss with vinaigrette.
Makes 4 appetizer sized salads
To stop fruit from oxidizing, place fruit in a bowl of 1 cup cold water to 1 tablespoon of lemon or lime juice. Increase the amount of water/juice depending on how much fruit you are using. When you’re ready to use the fruit, just pat dry with a paper towel.
It seems my life in the San Fernando Valley expands as long as Ventura Boulevard itself. Everything I’ve done in my life over the last thirty years has either be on or slightly off of Ventura Boulevard. To me, it is the boulevard of dreams. Whatever you fancy in life can be found there from Studio City to Woodland Hills.
I made plans with two women from my pastry school to meet for lunch. This is an activity I’m very good at, I honestly love lunch. And Marci, my baking buddy suggested a place called Sweet Butter in Sherman Oaks. Geez, just the name alone, I knew it had to be good. When we drove up I thought, “did they build this place just for me”? The outside is so welcoming, painted just that perfect shade of buttery yellow. You knew whatever was inside had to scrumptious. Here it was the middle of January and we were able to take advantage of their large outdoor seating area of comfortable banquets. I’m all about the food, but all the quaint touches were not lost on me. Colorful flowers, patterned fabrics, lots of wrought iron. I love it!
And I loved their menu. Yes I’m a sucker for French bistro style food, that’s kind of how I would describe it. They don’t have waitress service, so you go inside and stand in line to order and it’s brought to your table. Therein lies the one thing that was a problem for me. I don’t like having to stare down the other customers with that look of “dude, that’s my table, I’ve been standing here for the last ten minutes”! However, once seated, all was good with the world.
Fresh, fresh, homemade, and yes…fresh. They have a great selection of salads. I got the “South of the Boulevard” with chopped Jidori chicken which was moist and flavorful, Romaine, black beans, grilled corn and tortilla strips (they added just the right crunch), with a creamy Chipotle Buttermilk dressing. Simple and delicious. Marci got the Tuna Nicoise with Italian tuna. I didn’t taste it, but it looked great. The portions were fairly large, so I ended up taking mine home for a late afternoon snack. Each salad was under $13.00.
I’m also an iced tea, and coffee fanatic. I find so many restaurants don’t pay any attention to these beverages. Well, Sweet Butter does. After lunch I had a cup of their Intelligentsia brand coffee, and it was delicious. Mama likes her coffee. That with one of their homemade chocolate chip cookies, and I was a very happy girl.
I can definitely see going back again and again as there was no shortage of tasty looking sandwiches, salads, soups and homemade desserts to choose from. Good food, and a great view of Ventura Boulevard…dang I love the Valley!