I’ve been perusing a book lately called The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, by Jonny Bowden, and it’s a fun read. I mostly enjoy looking up different edibles and finding out what makes them so fantastic, particularly ones that don’t usually rank high enough to be including in top-ten-super-food-type lists. And I’ve been having a fun time thinking about what I’m eating and then reading up on the ingredients in the book. Now, 150 makes for a long list, so take this for what it’s worth, but almost every ingredient in this dish has an entry: hazelnuts, cardamom, oranges, lemons, cranberries, cherries, and apples. Cherries even got a star, although I think for both cherries and cranberries the author was thinking of the fresh version, not dried. Oh, and if you have any (I don’t) you could use almond oil instead of the vegetable oil, and that would be another checkmark for you.
Here’s a few tidbits from the book on why these ingredients receive such top ranks. Cardamom, for instance, has many properties that include words I never thought I would use on this blog: it cuts mucus and is a “terrific remedy for flatulence.” I know that will make all of you really excited. As if that wasn’t enough, it also eases stomach cramps, stimulates digestion, promotes liver health, and speeds fat metabolism. Hazelnuts are a favorite of mine for taste, but they also lower cholesterol.
Here in Oregon, hazelnuts are also prolific (at least in my neck of the woods), so I was excited to develop a recipe using them. One of my running routes cuts between two hazelnut groves (or is it an orchard for nuts?). The long rows are enchanting from late fall to early spring. They stretch off into the distance, disappearing into the fog in a mesmerizing pattern. Each time I run past, I feel like if I step off the road and into the dark ground beneath the trees, where the interlocking branches cast an eerie shadow, I’m apt to fall down a rabbit hole or find a dwarf lounging against one of the trunks. This year, I saw so many hazelnuts just laying on the ground under trees in the neighborhood (not the grove) that I couldn’t resist collecting some off the sidewalk and street one day. For years I’ve watched them rot away every fall, and I finally decided maybe the ones in the street were fair game. So now I have a bag sitting in my pantry. Sometimes in the evening, I find myself standing in the kitchen, eating a handful of these the way any logical person would (at least one without a nut cracker): I drop one on the floor, stomp on it with the heel of my shoe until it breaks, and then pick it up the nut with the hand that isn’t holding a baby. Voila!
Of course, when I made this salad, I took one look at the bag of nuts I’d collected this fall and decided to use pre-shelled and roasted ones from Trader Joes instead. So now you know that sometimes I’m a fraud when it comes to self-sufficiency and all that.
I truly love the synergy of flavors in this dish. I know it’s a tad annoying to have juice from one citrus and zest from another, but the orange is remarkable here. Use lemon for both juice and zest if you must, but you’ll be missing out. The more hazelnuts and dried fruit the better. You can use a combination of cranberries or cherries or just one or the other (see the headnotes for more details).
I like this served with another, more substantial, grain- or bread-based salad or with this savory bread pudding recipe.
Do you have any good recommendations for hazelnut recipes? I think they are so delicious, but have mostly had them in desserts (although my sister made a fabulous salad with them at Christmas).
Speed it Up: The great thing about this salad is that the apples won’t go brown if you make it ahead of time because of the lemon juice in the dressing. However, if you make it more than, say, 5 or 6 hours ahead of time, I would wait to add the dried fruit until right before serving, as it will eventually get mushy after sitting in the dressing for too long.
Special Diets & Allergies: Dairy free, soy free, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan.
Crunchy Apple Salad with Citrus and Hazelnuts
Serves 4 – 6 as a side dish
The combination of tastes in this simple side are surprising and fresh. The citrus undertones set off the sweetness of the apples and the crunch of the hazelnuts. I’ve made this with a number of different apple varieties, including Sweeties, Braeburns, and Honey Crisp, all of which worked well with the tartness of the cranberries. Try a combination of those or another crisp variety. I like this with either dried cranberries or cherries, although if you use all cherries, I would pair them with a tarter apple, like Granny Smith. You can use lemon zest if necessary, but the orange adds a nice touch. Don’t leave this in the fridge too long (like overnight) before serving, as the dried fruit will get mushy after several hours.
3 sweet, crunchy apples, sliced in matchsticks
1 t orange zest
1 T vegetable oil
2 T lemon juice
1 T honey
3/4 t cardamom
1/3 C dried cranberries and/or cherries
1/3 C roasted hazelnuts, lightly chopped
- Whisk the orange zest, oil, lemon juice, honey, and cardamom together in a small bowl.
- Put the apples, cranberries and/or cherries in a medium-sized salad bowl.
- Pour the lemon juice mixture over the apples and toss to coat.