Whenever I throw a dinner party where I want to impress my guests, The Admiral Arugula Salad is the salad I serve. It’s sweet, tart and peppery flavors and crunchy and creamy textures make everyone happy.
One of our favorite restaurants in Asheville is The Admiral. It opened in 2007 in the then emergent West Asheville neighborhood. The owners set out to create an unexpected restaurant that thrived on its talent and creativity. It has been thriving ever since. The menu at The Admiral showcases the best of North Carolina produce, local meats and fresh seafood. The weekly changing menu delivers new and exciting dishes each week, but a couple mainstays do just that – they STAY on the menu. One of the more beloved such dishes is The Admiral Arugula Salad, which features spicy arugula, sweet and tart Granny Smith apples, a sherry vinaigrette and a fat unctuous wedge of Cypress Grove Cheese’s Humboldt Fog soft-ripened goat cheese, topped with crushed hazelnuts.
I reverse engineered and created my own version of The Admiral Arugula Salad. I make a simple sherry maple syrup vinaigrette and top the salad with one of the wonderful candied nuts available at Trader Joe’s. This week, I used candied pecans. But really, any candied or toasted nut will be delicious in this salad.
Serve The Admiral Arugula Salad as a first course, rather than as a side dish. It can be the star of your meal. If you are looking for a salad to serve as a side dish, this Arugula Fennel Salad With Pommery Mustard Vinaigrette or this Citrus Salad with Avocado, Mint and Pistachio are better bets.
And if you love this salad, you will also love this Kale Apple Salad with Pecans and Blue Cheese. It has a very similar flavor profile.
Variations on The Admiral Arugula Salad
There are many possible variations that you can make to the The Admiral Arugula Salad, based on what you like and what is available in your local market.
- Nuts – The original The Admiral Arugula Salad uses crushed toasted hazelnuts. Use toasted hazelnuts or pecans, candied walnuts or pecans, or Marcona almonds.
- Apples – I love Honeycrisp apples for pretty much anything, but any sweet/tart apple will be fine here. The restaurant uses Granny Smith.
- Cheese – Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog cheese is my favorite, soft-ripened goat cheese. Made in California, each handcrafted wheel features a distinctive ribbon of edible vegetable ash. It is absolutely delicious, in this salad or just by itself and it’s readily available in well-stocked cheese shops and in Whole Foods stores. Fresh goat cheese, or chèvre, is not a substitute – it’s too mildly flavored. If you can’t find Humboldt Fog, use another intensely flavored soft-ripened cheese, such as Cambozola or St. Andre triple cream cheese.
To make The Admiral Arugula Salad, you will need to julienne an apple, which requires knowledge of a simple technique (see video below) and a sharp knife. I love Anthony Bourdain, and read his best-selling memoir “Kitchen Confidential.” Anthony Bourdain felt that knife sets were a total waste. All you need for most tasks is a good quality chef’s knife, particularly the Global G-2 Chef’s Knife. I bought one. Besides the fact that it is an aesthetically beautiful knife, I am amazed at how good it feels in my hand and how I use now it for absolutely everything. The Global G-2 is pricey, but this is a lifetime investment, and it’s the only knife you really need.
Whatever knife you choose to create your apple matchsticks, sharpen your knife before you begin. This set of the Global G-2 Chef’s Knife with Sharpener makes it easy.
Take the Humboldt Fog cheese out of the refrigerator 4 hours before serving. While still cold, slice it into wedges and wrap in plastic wrap. Let the wedges sit on the counter until dinnertime. You will be rewarded with ooey, gooey melty cheese on your plate. The way a soft-ripened cheese tastes its best.
The Admiral Arugula Salad
Sherry Maple Vinaigrette
- 1 teaspoon shallots finely chopped
- 1½ tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 1½ teaspoon maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup mild extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt to taste
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- 4 oz Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog goat cheese
- 5 oz arugula (1 clamshell) rinsed and dried
- 1 sweet/tart apple, Honeycrisp preferred cut into matchsticks (julienned) – see recipe video
- ¼ cup candied or toasted nuts I prefer candied pecans
- 4 hours before serving, take the Humboldt Fog cheese out of the refrigerator. While still cold, slice into 4 wedges, ¼ inch at the widest point. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and let come to room temperature.
- Make the vinaigrette: combine shallots, sherry vinegar, mustard, maple syrup and olive oil in a small bowl. Whisk until creamy. Add sea salt and pepper to taste and whisk again.
- Place arugula and apple matchsticks (julienne) in a large bowl. Toss with just enough vinaigrette to coat lightly.
- Divide arugula and apple mixture between 4 chilled salad plates. Add a wedge of goat cheese to each plate, top with nuts and serve immediately.
- Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog cheese is my favorite, soft-ripened goat cheese. Made in California, each handcrafted wheel features a distinctive ribbon of edible vegetable ash. It is absolutely delicious, in this salad or just by itself and it’s readily available in well-stocked cheese shops and in Whole Foods stores. Fresh goat cheese, or chèvre, is not a substitute – it’s too mildly flavored. If you can’t find Humboldt Fog, use another intensely flavored soft-ripened cheese, such as Cambozola or St. Andre triple cream cheese.
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