i think we’ve already established that i’m a little bit obsessed with brussels sprouts salads. luckily that means we just get to dive right in to talking about how good this crunchy apple and brussels sprout salad is. it’s basically one of my favorite “regular” salads, transported from a bed of baby spinach or arugula to a bed of lovely, crunchy, mild-yet-slightly-nutty-tasting shredded brussels sprouts.
what’s funny is that i actually thought i came up with this combination as a brussels sprout salad original. it wasn’t until my husband looked down at his plate and asked, “don’t you make a similar salad without brussels sprouts?” that i realized, yes, yes i do. …if it ain’t broke, right?
one of the great things about this brussels sprout salad (well, ok, one of the great things about many salads) is that it’s flexible. if baking is like a science where half a teaspoon of one ingredient can make or break the finished product, salad assembly is more like an art. love nuts? add more pecans! want your salad to be dairy free and vegan? leave out the cheese!
that’s not to suggest that you can just throw any old odds and ends from your fridge or pantry into a large bowl, toss it up, and call it salad though. no, indeed not. i suspect that there is a spectrum of salad making and eating and it goes from people who believe that salad crafting is a precise blend of scientific art and artistic science to people who believe that combining at least two ingredients, one of which may or may not be a vegetable, on a bowl or plate constitutes a salad. it’s likely the latter work for the folks who determine school lunch menus in many of the public schools across the country…
but i digress! anyway, if this salad spectrum were to materialize, i would be firmly rooted on the end closer to the science-y art-sy end. and from that vantage point, i would give this salad my stamp of approval. apples and dried cranberries are a match made in heaven, as are apples and cheddar. (pears are a happy substitute in this little salad love triangle, by the way, and are especially lovely this time of year when they are more in season than apples, though in defense of apples, they do add a lovely crunch.) pecans get along super well with our happy trifecta, as do shallots. and brussels sprouts? brussels sprouts love everyone!
for the dressing, you have two choices: a squeeze of orange + a squeeze of lemon or, discovered by happy accident (aka, despite my best a mediocre effort, i couldn’t bring myself to like and eat the grapefruit that i bought), 2 squeezes of grapefruit! i was trying to get a nice balance of zippy/tangy/tart/sweet with the orange and lemon and just couldn’t quite hit the mark. fast forward to making myself yet another bowl of this brussels sprout dressing and realizing, nearly at the same time that a) i was out of the not-quite-there-yet dressing i had made originally and b) that half grapefruit on the cutting board wasn’t going to eat itself. aaaaand done! delicious salad dressing AND satisfaction of my inner 1940s “MUST NOT WASTE FOOD” housewife all in one little glass jar. pour that over this crunchy apple and brussels sprout salad and, regardless of where you are on the salad spectrum, i think you’ll agree this beats the tuna and watermelon “salad” your great aunt once made.
- 16 oz. (454 g.) brussels sprouts
- 8 oz. (227 g. / ~2 cups) cooked, shredded chicken
- 2 crisp, tart apples, diced (i used macoun; honey crisp or granny smith would work well)
- 3 oz. (86 g. / 3/4 cup) dried cranberries
- 1 medium large or 2 small shallots, thinly sliced and then diced
- 1 7/8 oz. (57 g. / ½ cup) pecans
- 2 oz. (57 g. / ½ cup) extra sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
- zest from half of an orange, totally optional
- juice of 1 grapefruit (about 2 oz. / 59 ml / ¼ cup)
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 2 oz. (59 ml / ¼ cup) extra virgin olive oil
- combine all of the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to combine.
- toast the pecans in a heavy bottom skillet over medium-low heat. keep a close eye on them and stir them frequently to prevent burning. they blacken quickly if your burner is too hot or your pan has a thin bottom so proceed carefully. if the heat is low enough to not burn them, it will take 10 – 15 minutes to toast them. once toasted, remove from pan (to reduce any further cooking which could lead to burning). once cool enough to touch, break into smaller pieces (i do this by hand because it’s easy and prevents me from ending up with a pile of fine pecan sand).
- rinse the brussels sprouts. cut off the ends and remove any damaged leaves. if you have a food processor, set it up with the slicer blade and enjoy the pure joy of dropping the sprouts down the shoot. if you don’t have a food processor, thinly slice the sprouts (a sharp knife or mandolin works well). once the brussels sprouts are all sliced, give them a good bath in a salad spinner or large bowl to get all the trapped grit out. spin or drain and pat them dry.
- combine all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss until combined.
- if you’re not going to serve all of the salad immediately, remove and refrigerate the portion that you don’t want to eat now. toss the salad you do want to eat with about 1 tablespoon of dressing per serving. divide among plates.
i’m not usually a grapefruit fan but i found it beat out my earlier idea to combine orange and lemon juices. if you’re positive you won’t like the grapefruit, feel free to substitute in a mix of orange and lemon juice (we’re going for a sweet/tart balance here).
the salad is best the day it’s made but keeps 2 days in the fridge, provided you store the dressing separately and toss the salad and dressing together just before serving.