I have no idea how it’s possible that there are only four days left until Christmas.
Just a few weeks ago, I had grand illusions of weekends spent decorating and baking, wrapping gifts way in advance, and nights filled with popcorn and Christmas movies. Yes, all these things happen. But they happen along with life. Work, school, finals week for the boys, Boy #4’s Winter Formal, more work, you get the drift. It’s a bit frenzied, even frantic at times, but all the same, it’s Christmas.
As I write this, Boy #4 is at his Winter Formal. Just a couple of hours ago, I had a house full of beautiful girls and handsome boys all decked out in their prom attire posing for photos. I’m treasuring every one of these moments with our youngest.
Even at a tux fitting on an extremely busy day, I’m present, snapping photos with my phone when he’s not looking. I don’t want to miss a thing. This is his last year at home with us before he heads off to college which makes this a very special Christmas for our family.
While I’m deep into my Christmas menu planning, I thought I’d share this special salad with you. Since I always do the traditional turkey at Thanksgiving, I almost always do beef for Christmas Eve and this salad is a great complement to a dinner of prime rib or beef tenderloin. The ingredients are chopped so that you get a little bit of everything in each bite. The cabbage is crisp, the apples are sweet and tart, and the gorgonzola cheese and walnuts keep you coming back for more. It’s all topped off with a light apple cider based vinaigrette which adds a special festive touch for the holidays.
Let’s start with the dressing.
The grocery list – Apple cider, rice wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a fresh lemon.
A word about rice wine vinegar. You may notice that what is pictured above is seasoned rice vinegar. I’ve used both with a great result. Use what you can find at your local store.
Place two cups of apple cider in a heavy saucepan and place it over medium high heat. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer the cider at a low boil for about ten minutes or until the mixture has reduced to about half. This will happen, really. I didn’t believe it the first time I heard it either.
Remove the reduced cider from the heat and whisk in the remaining dressing ingredients, except the olive oil. That will come later. For now add the rice wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, fresh lemon juice, honey, and salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Let the dressing cool for a couple of minutes and then transfer to a container and place in refrigerator to cool completely. If you are rushed for time, you can place the dressing in the freezer for 10 or 15 minutes to cool it more quickly.
While the dressing is cooling, we can take a nap…or start on the salad. Since I’ve completely forgotten how to sleep while the sun is out, let’s make salad.
More for the grocery list – Napa cabbage, mixed salad greens (spring mix), three apples (eat one because you’ll only need two), fresh chives, baby carrots, good quality Gorgonzola cheese, and walnuts.
I like to use Napa cabbage in this because it has a nice crisp texture without the “rubbery” quality that basic coleslaw type cabbages have. It just seems a little fancier for the holidays.
Start by slicing up your head of Napa cabbage. Depending on how many people you are serving, use as much as you need but I typically remove and discard the innermost part which is yellower than the whiter outer leaves. I gave my sliced cabbage a spin the my salad spinner to be sure it was clean and free of debris.
Next, pour out the contents of your bagged salad mix and run your knife through it a couple of times. We’re going for the chopped salad affect so we don’t want any big pieces of raddichio ruining our experience. The variety of colors in the mix are going to make this one pretty salad.
Grab a great big salad bowl and toss together the cabbage and mixed greens.
Julienne some baby carrots. This is a fancy way of saying grab a baby carrot and slice it, lengthwise, into very skinny sticks. Add the skinny carrot sticks to the salad.
Remember that dressing that’s been chillin’? It should be plenty cool by now so whisk in the olive oil.
Here’s a pretty cool trick. As you slice the apples, add them to the dressing.
The vinegar and lemon juice will help prevent the sliced apples from turning brown and as an added bonus, each apple with soak up a little of the yummy dressing. I like to use both a red and green apple for color.
Slice the chives into 1″ pieces and crumble up some Gorgonzola. You can eyeball this and just use as much as you’d like. Gorgonzola is SO good in this salad.
Use a spoon to transfer the apples from the dressing to the salad.
Add as much dressing as you’d like. You will probably not use all of the dressing but it will depend on the size of your salad. Give the salad a good toss to distribute the dressing throughout.
Top it off with the fresh chives, Gorgonzola cheese and walnuts. You can chop the walnuts if you like but I just use my hands to break them into large pieces as I add them to the salad.
This salad is a beautiful for a Christmas buffet. A super flavorful but light and healthy addition to your holiday meal.
It is my sincerest hope that you have a wonderful holiday filled with friends, family, and of course, delicious food!
Apple Cabbage Salad with Walnuts and Gorgonzola
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar or seasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 apples red, green, or both
- 1 head Napa cabbage
- 1 7 ounce bag of mixed greens (spring mix)
- 1 cup julienned baby carrots
- 3 tablespoons fresh chives cut into 1" pieces
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped walnuts
- 1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese or to taste
- Place 2 cups apple cider in a heavy saucepan and place over medium high heat. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium. Simmer at a low boil for about 10 minutes or till mixtures reduces by half. Remove pan from heat and add rice wine vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, honey, salt and fresh ground pepper. Allow to cool for a few minutes then transfer to a bowl or other container and place in the refrigerator to cool completely. You can place it in the freezer to cool more quickly but check frequently and pull out as soon as it is chilled.
- Finely slice the Napa cabbage and give it a rinse, draining well. Place the sliced cabbage in a large salad bowl. Transfer the contents of the bagged salad mix to your cutting board and run your knife through it a couple times. Add chopped mixed greens to the cabbage and toss to combine. Add the julienned carrots.
- When the dressing has completely cooled, whisk in the olive oil. Core and thinly slice the apples, adding them to the dressing as you work, to prevent them from discoloring. Use a spoon to transfer the apples from the dressing to the salad and then toss the salad with just enough dressing to lightly coat the ingredients.
- Top the tossed salad with the chopped fresh chives, walnuts, and crumbled Gorgonzola cheese.
- Serve immediately.
Prep time shown does not include time to chill dressing.