I love a good main dish salad in spring and summer, and I have a new favorite ingredient in mine: apples.
Fruit is common in salads of all types these days. But apples are particularly well-suited to salads.
And they are especially suited to salads with meat because different varieties of apple have varying levels of sweetness that complement proteins. Specifically, a tarter apple goes really well with more strongly flavored proteins, such as beef.
In fact, if I had to choose one type of apple to go in my salads, I’d pick Granny Smith, the tart apple mostly used for baking. But other, sweeter apples will work with milder white-meat chicken or even shrimp.
Aside from flavor, apples also bring a welcome crunch to salads.
My latest infatuation with apples in salads was the result of a happy accident. I had a stray Granny Smith apple in the fridge that I needed to use. I just happened to be making a salad with leftover chicken, so I threw in the apple — and voila!
I’ve since developed three recipes in which apples work well.
One with chicken uses onion, celery and pecans — not unlike some mayonnaise-based chicken salad. But instead of mayonnaise, I dress this with a honey-mustard vinaigrette. It’s also good with some dried cranberries or cherries. And some crumbled blue cheese offers a delicious, tangy counterpart to the sweet apple.
I paired shrimp with apple, asparagus, carrot and scallions. It’s an unusual combination, but works surprisingly well together. For this, I like the lighter flavors of a citrus vinaigrette, such as one made with orange and lemon juice and thyme.
For a beef salad, I needed something stronger. I chose a Thai-style salad that incorporates soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil and lime juice. This salad gets a lot of crunch, not only from the apple, but also from cabbage, red onion and red bell pepper. A garnish of peanuts and cilantro brings all the flavors together.