This salad is incredible. Like a turned-up version of a standard apple walnut salad, only this one has no thick mayo-only dressing or raisins. It instead uses a tangy and sweet maple mustard poppyseed dressing for the best balance of tart, sweet, and heat.
However, my favorite part of the salad is, of course, the candied pepper bacon--holy moly, it's rich and smoky and peppery with the chewy, almost sticky texture of caramel. Unreal. Then we contrast that with funky, dry, salty bits of blue cheese. The apple is juicy and sweet; the walnuts are crunchy and bitter...you see where I'm going with this? To flavorland.
Notes: Apple is Honeycrisp. Bacon is uncured.
APPLE WALNUT CHOPPED SALAD WITH CANDIED PEPPER BACON & MAPLE MUSTARD POPPYSEED DRESSING
Ingredients: 4 cups chopped mixed greens, one large apple, chopped, 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped, 1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles, 6-8 slices of bacon, 2 tbsp. maple syrup, 1-2 tbsp. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. pepper. For the Maple Mustard Poppyseed Dressing: 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt, 1/3 cup light mayonnaise, 2 tbsp. maple syrup, 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard, 1 tsp. onion powder, 1/2 tsp. sea salt, 2 tsp. poppy seeds.
1. Preheat the oven to 375*F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and lay a rack* over the baking sheet (see Tips below).
2. Brush the bacon lightly with maple syrup. Sprinkle over brown sugar and pepper. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until sticky, brown and caramelized. Cool slightly, then blot gently with paper towels. Chop and set aside.
3. Make the dressing by whisking all ingredients until emulsified or shake them up well in a jar.
4. Assemble the salad: Layer chopped greens in a bowl or large platter. Add apples, walnuts, blue cheese, and most of the bacon, then toss. Drizzle over one-third to a half of the dressing, then toss again. Serve with extra scattered bacon over the top and the remaining dressing on the side.
Oven baking the bacon is the best way to get perfectly done candied bacon. The heat circulates beneath the bacon, cooking from below as well as above, which makes for delicious, chewy strips. And the bacon fat and sugar drip through the rack onto the foil, making it an easy cleanup.
It's essential to check the bacon beginning at twenty minutes every minute or so because the brown sugar will go from caramelized to black quickly. Remove the bacon when the fat has cooked entirely and is no longer white but a deep, firm, and golden color. Don't be alarmed if the sugar bubbles and burns and turns black on the foil underneath the rack...this is why the foil is necessary so you won't ruin your baking sheet.