Every time I make this salad for friends or a party it gets rave reviews. The flavors and different textures in this salad will keep you coming back for more. My friend, Sharon P., gave me this recipe about 10 years ago, and it has been going strong every since. It is also very versatile. You can use any kind of tender leafy salad for this, whatever nuts you like, whatever cheese you like, and if you want to make it a main course salad, then throw in some chopped or shredded chicken breast! I know this will soon become your new favorite salad!
Who would think a little ‘ol salad would have so many ingredients? That’s okay, it really looks worse than it is and comes together surprisingly fast.
While we are making our vinaigrette, get a large saucepan going with boiling salted water and boil your mini bow tie pasta. While the pasta is cooking get out a small bowl. Add the red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon dried basil, 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced, 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar (I use a little more brown sugar, but play with the flavors and see if you need to add more, too), salt and pepper to taste. Give it a whirl. Now, while whisking, add your olive oil. Place in a jar with lid or a plastic container with a tight fitting lid. This can be made one day in advance.
Chop your apples. To avoid your apples turning brown quickly use this little trick that my friend Lavena showed me. Use fruit fresh (can be found in the canning aisle). Just sprinkle it on your chopped apples and give them a toss.
Now chop your tomatoes and season them lightly with salt and pepper.
Put your slivered almonds in a 10″ non-stick skillet. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons white sugar and turn the heat to medium high.
Continually stir the almonds until they begin to toast and the sugar turns an amber color. If the almonds are toasting before the sugar caramelizes then reduce the heat a little. You want just a nice golden brown.
Once the almonds have toasted and sugar is a little caramelized place the nuts on a piece of parchment paper and allow them to cool. Now you could avoid this step all together and just buy those little bags of already candied nuts!
Put all your salad fixins’ into a bowl (I usually let my guests put the cheese on their salad….can you believe there are a lot of people who do not like blue cheese?!?!?!) Make sure your noodles are drained well and cooled. If making this salad ahead of time, toss the noodles lightly with a little bit of the vinaigrette.
Then put your greens on top of all your fixins’. At this point you can refrigerate this salad about 4 hours or so before tossing with the vinaigrette and ready to serve it.
Or put in the vinaigrette and give it a good toss. Serves about 4.
If you are having a party here is a really fun way to serve your salad, in a medium-sized Chinese to-go box. I got these at Michaels. This works really great if you are having lots of heavy appetizers around the dinner hour, they can just grab and go. Don’t forget the forks!