Rich and Delicious Supper Salad: Avocado, Stilton, Walnuts and Red Onion Over Mixed Greens

Going to the allergist can be a beautiful thing.

Mostly, it is a painful, itchy thing, often leavened only by the sad news that you are very allergic to grass, tree pollen, wheat and cats, and that you should probably never eat any kind of seafood again, but sometimes there is good news.

Like this last time I went, when I found out that I was VERY allergic to grass, trees, wheat and cats (although cats I was not as allergic to as I used to be) and that I was most likely allergic to shrimp and had begun to react to clams, and thus shouldn’t touch crab (a sad thing indeed), I did learn that I am only barely allergic to horses (I used to be terribly allergic to them), I am no longer reacting against dogs (they used to make me hideously allergic), and blue-green molds are no longer causing allergic reactions.

That last one is particularly good news, because for my entire life, I have adored blue cheeses, and ever since I first tasted one when I was about three, they have tended to make me quite ill. Later, when I had bacterial pneumonia and was in the hospital for several weeks, my doctor discovered I was allergic to penicillin. Then, when I finally went to an allergist for the first time, one of the biggest allergens I reacted to was mold.

It all came clear to me then, why exactly it was that certain cheeses would make me ever so terribly sick after I ate them–especially blue cheeses. (The rinds of Brie and Camembert were also problematic for me, and still are.)

Once I knew positively what was happening, I stopped eating blue mold cheeses. Well, mostly. I would sneak a taste now and then, because I loved them so much–especially Gorgonzola–that was my favorite. But, if I ate too much of it–well, I paid a pretty awful, painful price, so I was careful.

And some blue cheeses, such as Stilton, or Maytag Blue, I never even got to try.

I just read about them and sighed and wondered.

Until now.

Last night, I made a delicious salad featuring Stilton, which I now know I love. I know because I finally tasted it last night and I think I like it even better than Gorgonzola. Oooh. A new goodie for me. It almost makes up for the lack of crab. Almost. Not. Quite.

Anyway, back to the salad–it features the aforementioned Stilton, which I paired with toasted English walnuts, finely diced raw red onion and a fairly firm avocado. These I placed over a bed of romaine and mixed baby greens with radicchio, and drizzled with a vinaigrette dressing made from pomegranate molasses, (this thick, tangy dark brown liquid can be found in Middle Eastern grocery stores–it is boiled down pomegranate juice)walnut oil, honey, salt and Aleppo pepper. The entire salad was sprinkled with finely minced fresh rosemary leaves.

It is perfectly simple to do, and it tastes divine, and is great for a light vegetarian supper if paired with bread or a pasta dish. Or perhaps risotto?

The richness of the cheese and avocado are brightened by the sharp aroma of the onions and the medicinal, fresh pine-tree flavor of the rosemary. The soft cheese and avocados are contrasted with the lively crunch of the toasted walnuts (please take the time to toast them–they taste so much better) and the more subtle crispness of the red onion. Even the greens contrast with each other–the romaine is crisp, the radicchio is robust and the baby lettuces are buttery-soft. Finally, the tangy, sweet-sour enrobes the entire salad in a dazzling embrace of flavor and velvety smooth texture.

I will tell you, this recipe doesn’t give amounts–just ingredients. It is up to you how much of what you put into it, though I do put amounts for the dressing recipe. What you don’t use for the salad can be refrigerated, though I suggest that you blend it with an immersion or regular blender to re-emulsify it before using it again. Just shaking the jar generally doesn’t do the trick, because pomegranate molasses and honey are both so thick.

Avocado, Stilton, Walnut and Red Onion Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Ingredients:

1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
3/4 cup walnut (or olive) oil
honey to taste (how much you use depends on the tartness of your pomegranate molasses–it varies from brand to brand)
pinch of salt (or to taste–it balances the sweet and sour flavors of the dressing)
1/8 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
walnut pieces
mixed greens
Stilton cheese
fairly firm (but not hard) avocado, diced into small cubes
red onion diced very finely
finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
rosemary sprigs for garnish

Method:

Using a regular blender or an immersion blender, blend together the pomegranate molasses and walnut or olive oil until they completely emulsify. Taste, then add as much honey and salt as you need to balance the flavor, and the Aleppo pepper–then blend again.

Warm a heavy skillet–cast iron is ideal–over medium heat for a minute or two. Add as many walnut pieces are you are going to use–just don’t completely crowd the pan–it works better to only cover the bottom in one layer. Toast, shaking the pan and stirring the nuts, until they smell warm, brown, toasty and good, and their flesh has turned a more rich, golden brown color.

Turn nuts out onto a plate to cool completely. Sprinkle lightly with salt if you wish, though I don’t think it is necessary.

Put a pile of greens into each serving bowl. Into each bowl add a little pile of crumbled Stilton, then a little pile of avocado cubes. Around the edge, sprinkle the walnuts, then sprinkle the red onion and rosemary leaves over everything. Add a spiralling drizzle of the dressing, and a sprig of rosemary for garnish.

The dressing recipe makes enough for about six servings. You can double, triple or quadruple it easily–just adjust the Aleppo pepper amount from an exact measurement to “to taste.”

6 Comments

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  1. Hi Barbara,

    Unrelated to this post, I finally saw and touched a real Le Creuset in a high end store in my city – Bangalore, India. Never mind that it cost so much (in INR currency) that I will probably never own one. But it felt like a pilgrimage. :)

    I read about it first when you wrote a post about the elderly woman who used her saucepan for self-defense. I saw a real Le Creuset and it was just so gorgeous and very heavy too like you had mentioned. I think I am in love!!! :P

    I am no professional cook, but I enjoy and appreciate food and cooking a lot and I am getting more and more interested, as I discover more about all these amazing ingredients and pots and pans and kitchen gadgets!! Just wanted to stop by and share my excitement.

    Hope you and Kat is doing great, after that nightmarish incident. Take care.

    Comment by blinkandmiss — March 20, 2009 #

  2. Blink–

    Le Creuset is my favorite line of cookware, in large part, because they cook with the same amazing qualities of cast iron, but the enamel makes it much easier to clean and maintain.

    My first pieces of Le Creuset came from Zak’s Grandma whose arm strength had deteriorated and so she could no longer lift them. Zak’s sister Laura couldn’t easily lift them either so they all were passed to me. I love them dearly, and use them all the time.

    I was given a large, deep braising skillet and a shallow frying pan for the generic winter holiday two years ago by Zak’s stepmother, and those two pieces, along with the older pieces from Zak’s grandmother, are the workhorses of my kitchen. I use at least one of them every day, most often two of them.

    I use them to cook all of my curries–they brown the onions to absolute perfection, and they wide, deep braising pan helps curry sauces reduce by water evaporation to a perfect velvety thickness without adding anything to thicken them.

    I am glad you got to see pieces of my favorite cookware, and you are right, new pieces are expensive–even in the US. If you have access to ebay, you might be able to find older pieces for cheaper, but until then–get some pieces of plain old cast iron without the enamel. You have to season these pieces and be sure and never soak them or let them stay wet–you wash them carefully with no or very little soap, and then dry them on fire of the stovetop. Then rub in a bit of oil to soak into the metal and keep it essentially non-stick. You also have to be careful in cooking acidic ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice and tomatoes in them–only do that in a well-seasoned pan and never let them sit in the pot for a long period of time as the acid can eat into the iron.

    These types of cast iron pots and pans are much less expensive, and not as pretty, but when cared for they are as durable, and will last generations.

    And–you should find lots of them in India.

    I am glad to know that you are interested in cooking and that my blog has helped in that.

    And–thank you for asking after Kat and I. We are doing well, and she is growing beautifully, and has really taken off with her talking. She even uses two-word sentences these days.

    Comment by Barbara — March 20, 2009 #

  3. Barbara, re. the cast iron issue I don’t know if they have IKEA in India (a long shot I’m guessing) but elsewhere they have a much cheaper and pretty good equivalent.

    As for Stilton, how sad that you have been deprived all these years. As the wife of an Englishman, I’ve become completely indoctrinated. One thing you should try if you haven’t already is the traditional English way of eating it: on a buttered digestive biscuit (which is sweet) with a nice glass of port. It really is a revelation! We used to have fun serving it to doubtful French people who couldn’t imagine the English knowing a trick with cheese that they hadn’t invented! ; )

    Comment by Meg — March 21, 2009 #

  4. I’m curious about being allergic to penicillin. Since it’s so important to medicine, how do you deal with the possibility of getting illnesses that are cured with penicillin? Are there effective substitutes?

    Comment by Christy — March 23, 2009 #

  5. Oh, Christy–it is worse than just penicillin. I am also allergic to the antibiotics tetracycline and at least two in of the mycins–including eruthromycin, which, like penicillin, is a broad spectrum antibiotic, and tetracycline and doxycycline. They are all commonly used broad-spectrum antibiotics.

    So, what my doctors used to do was put me on sulfa–which is what was used before antibiotics were discovered and synthesized. However, four years ago, I developed an allergy to sulfa–so now we have a problem.

    I can take cephalexin and cefaclor, which are synthetic broad spectrum antibiotics, and I can take one other synthesized broad-spectrum antibiotic which I cannot remember the name of. The two I named are the ones used in place of penicillin for those of us who are allergic to it.

    What it means is that my doctors’ choices are limited at the rare times I get an infection. And that is bad, but not necessarily fatal.

    What I do is avoid infections by having a killer immune system. I eat lots of vegetables and fruits, I take herbs that boost the immune system and I eat lots and lots of naturally antibiotic, antiseptic foods like garlic, ginger, chilies, onions, thyme, and turmeric.

    I am lucky in that I haven’t had a serious upper respiratory infection in years. I used to get them all the time when I was younger–at least twice or three times a year, but the last sinus infection I have had was two years ago, and before that, the last upper respiratory infection was a bout of strep throat four years before that. The last bronchitis was a decade ago.

    Comment by Barbara — March 23, 2009 #

  6. I have never tried stilton, but I have to say that my favorite cheese on the planet is Cabrales – a world renowned Spanish bleu – try it out!

    Comment by Liz — April 24, 2009 #

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