I have a love/meh relationship with salad. When prepared in a restaurant, salads are often majorly delicious and can sometimes even surpass the main dish. When prepared at home (at least in our home), salads are often boring afterthoughts that result in leftover lettuce dying in the refrigerator and ending up in the compost pile. So, we set about to change that and landed with an epic salad that can be prepared large (in tart form) or small — tart apple, smoked blue cheese, guanciale, walnuts, arugula and phyllo with an apple cider vinaigrette. Check it.
This recipe makes a tart that serves 2-4 or small salads that serve 6-8.
Phyllo pastry base
4 sheets fillo/phyllo dough (you could also use puff pastry)
2 TB melted butter (for small salad) or 4 TB melted butter (for large tart)
Lay one sheet (layer) of phyllo on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush melted butter lightly across the entire sheet. Lay a second sheet (layer) on top of the first and repeat the butter brushing. Do this two more times until you’ve got four layers of pastry. Be careful when transferring the sheets as they’re delicate and can rip. Lightly prick the pastry with a fork (so it doesn’t bubble up).
* If you’re making a full-size tart: Fold over each edge about 1/4 inch so later you can lay the salad inside the “borders.”
* If you’re making individual salads: Turn a drinking glass over onto the phyllo and use a paring knife around the rim to cut circles into the pastry. Remove circles to parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Discard remaining pastry (or bake up on a separate sheet for delicious, crunchy appetizers to munch on).
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown. If bottom starts to get too brown, turn the heat down to 325 degrees halfway through cooking. Remove when pastry is golden brown and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
1/4 lb. guanciale (pork jowl) or 4-6 thick-cut slices of bacon (leave this out if you want a vegetarian-friendly dish)
1/4 cup smoked blue cheese, crumbled (you can also use regular blue cheese)
1/4 cup walnuts or hazelnuts (aka filberts), roasted and rough chopped
4-6 cups arugula, washed and dried
1/2 tart green apple, sliced into “half moons”
Cut guanciale into bite-sized chunks and cook until brown and crisp in a saute pan (or cook bacon and crumble into bite-sized crumbles). Crumble blue cheese. Rough chop your walnuts or hazelnuts. Wash, dry and chop your arugula into 1-inch pieces. Slice half a green apple into “half moons.”
Apple cider vinaigrette
2-3 TB apple cider vinegar
1-2 TB honey
1-2 TB extra virgin olive oil
Heat honey for 10 seconds in the microwave and add to apple cider vinegar, mix well. Drizzle in olive oil while mixing. Set aside until ready to dress salad.
Toss dressing and arugula, add apples, guanciale (or bacon) and nuts. Toss lightly. Pile salad on top of pastry (on the tart or on individual rounds). Sprinkle cheese on top. Enjoy the buttery crunch of the phyllo, the crisp bite of the arugula, the sweet/tart dressing, the fragrant bite of the apples, the toasty nuts, the crackling salt of the guanciale and the funk of the blue cheese. All the flavors meld perfectly together.
With this simple, but elegant salad-as-dinner, I realized that you just need a few really high quality ingredients to turn a pile of greens into a wow dinner. Go forth and eat salad.