Crunchy Christmas Salad
This salad is from a shoot I did for Food & Wine Magazine some years ago. It was actually for a Thanksgiving story, but this could be made any time of year. Of course you have to love celery if you’re going to make it, but if you don’t love it, you could always substitute cucumber, blanched beans, cooked brussels sprouts, even leafy greens such as lettuce, arugula or spinach.
The wonderful thing about this is the difference in tastes, textures and colours.The crunchy green, the salty white pecorino cheese, the sweet black dates and the nutty toasty brown walnuts. The recipe calls for walnut oil….but who just happens to have walnut oil in their kitchen cupboard? Not me, so I just used olive oil. If you don’t have shallots, use a quarter of an onion and chop very finely. This would go brilliantly with the typical full cream fatty foods that one will definitely consume at this time of year….it’s lean, green and extra clean and makes you feel, well, like you did something right.
1 1/4 cups walnuts
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons walnut oil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 bunches celery (2 pounds/ 900 grams), thinly sliced on the bias
3/4 cup dried pitted Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise
3 ounces / 85 grams dry pecorino cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
Preheat the oven to 350° farenheit/ 175 celcius. Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast for about 8 minutes, until lightly golden and fragrant. Let cool completely, then coarsely chop.
In a small bowl, combine the shallot with the sherry vinegar. Whisk in both oils and season with salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, toss the toasted walnuts, celery, dates and pecorino. Add the dressing and toss. Serve at once.
MAKE AHEAD The salad and dressing can be refrigerated separately for up to 1 day. Store the walnuts in an airtight container and add to the salad just before serving.