With a rich nutty flavor and subtle sweetness, THIS is the perfect Spring salad! Enjoy it as a low-carb lunch. Or better yet, pair it with a glass of sparkling rosé and call it brunch.
With the snow officially gone, it’s finally beginning to feel like springtime. Yay!
I know— I say that like I actually participated in winter this year. Even though I’m over here living perpetual Groundhogs day (WAY overrated btw), I’m still affected by seasonal cravings. And I woke up this morning with a mean craving for salad.
Okay, let me rephrase that. I woke up this morning with a mean craving for a sparkling rosé. And I figured, I better have some salad with my rosé all day.
Is This Salad Keto-Approved?
First, we’re working with apples. And apples are not exactly on the list of low-sugar fruit. As with any other fruit, apples contain fructose (fruit sugar). And fructose must be factored into your daily carb count.
Beyond that, the vinaigrette is made with maple syrup, and maple syrup is definitely a no-go on keto. The way I see it if your carb-refeed day involves salad as opposed to a pizza and a pint of ice cream— it’s 100% justifiable!
This salad contains 15 grams of carbs, 8 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of fiber. In total, we’re talking 11 grams of net carbs (carbs + sugar – fiber = net carbs) for the entire salad. 15 grams may be generally unacceptable (for a single meal), but it’s ideal for cyclical keto enthusiasts.
How to Make the Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Homemade vinaigrettes are SUPER easy! Plus, they’re WAY healthier than most store-bought alternatives because you have full control over the quality of your ingredients.
There are two important factors when it comes to making a killer homemade vinaigrette. The first is to select a high-quality oil, and the second is to balance the oil with an appropriate ratio of acid.
CHOOSING HIGH-QUALITY OIL
The type of oil you select will determine the complexity of flavors within the vinaigrette. Not only that, but it also sets the standard for health. Most store-bought vinaigrettes contain highly processed oils such as vegetable, canola, or soybean. The reason being, they’re inexpensive to manufacture and maintain lengthy shelf-lives. The problem with processed oils is that they’re subjected to destructive high-temperature processing methods. Such methods promote significant oxidative stress, and oxidative stress can damage cells, proteins, and DNA. Worse yet, prolonged stress furthers affects liver function and contributes to aging.
WHAT IS AN APPROPRIATE RATIO OF ACID?
Once you’ve selected your oil, the next step is to balance the oil with an appropriate level of acidity. Traditionally, homemade vinaigrettes call for a 3:1 ratio. Meaning 3 parts oil to 1 part acid. So if you want to make 1 cup of salad dressing, you’d use 3/4 cup of oil and 1/4 cup of vinegar.
I prefer a more acidic experience— so I generally opt for a 2:1 ratio— your choice.
After selecting choice oil and vinegar, pour your desired ratio into a mason jar. Add a pinch of salt and some fresh ground pepper. Seal the cap and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. It’s seriously that easy!
Can You Use a Different Cheese?
Short answer, yes.
Though I’m not sure why you’d want to (unless you’re a vegetarian). I’ve thoughtfully selected manchego because of its unadulterated production and complementary flavor. Manchego’s creamy texture and sweet nutty flavor pairs perfectly with crisp apples and bitter greens.
What is Manchego Cheese?
Manchego is a semi-soft Spanish cheese produced with sheep’s milk. I was introduced to manchego while living in Spain and immediately fell in love. Beyond its appealing taste and texture, what I love most about manchego is that it’s a clean product. Most Manchego variants are unpasteurized, using only raw sheep’s milk in their production. These natural ingredients, without fillers or preservatives, make it completely free of gluten.
- Greens— To balance the sweetness of the apple and vinaigrette, this salad tastes best when paired with subtle bitter greens such as arugula or watercress. However, if you’re not a fan of the bite, a traditional spring mix will work as well.
- Nuts— I added the slivered almonds to enhance the salad’s texture— giving it that little crunch. If you’re opting for a different variety, I’d suggest sticking with a mild-flavored nut such as pine or pili.
- Apples— It really doesn’t matter if you’re going for sweet or tart— both will work. What’s most important about the apple is that it’s crispy. If honey crisp isn’t your thing, I’d recommend granny smith.
- Protein— This salad is good with or without meat. Personally, I enjoy it with chicken. Although I think it would be nice with fish or seafood as well.
- Add-ons— Sticking with the whole bitter theme, I enjoy this salad with added frisee or endive.
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