You might be shocked to hear that a recipe from a very large tome of a cookbook called Gourmet Today has a few gourmet ingredients in it. Ingredients that you might not have sitting around your pantry.
Now I’m not usually one for extravagant ingredients actually. In fact, if you look at my Ingredient Index, the ones with the highest numbers of recipes are things like butter. Simple stuff. So I usually don’t recipes with tons of gourmet things in them.
But for some reason this recipe caught my eye. Even though it has dates, hazelnuts (which I couldn’t even find), creme fraiche (which I couldn’t find), and an expensive version of cheddar called dubliner cheese, I went out on a limb and made it anyway. Even with the substitutions I made, this salad was a seriously unique dish and one that I really loved.
1) Chop nuts roughly and add to small pan over medium heat with butter and sugar. Cook for a few minutes and stir frequently until sugar melts and nuts brown lightly. It should take just a minute or two. Remove from heat and let nuts cool.
2) Remove pits from dates and combine with candied nuts in a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine but try not to overpulse it. If you don't have a processor, you can just finely mince the nuts and the dates.
3) Meanwhile, mix together all the dressing ingredients and set aside.
4) Peel and slice cucumber and add to a small bowl with dill, shallots, and vinegar. Stir and let sit for a minute or two.
5) Chop lettuce and dress lightly. Add cucumber mixture and sprinkle on nut/date mixture. You can go pretty heavy on it. Then top with slices of Dubliner (or cheddar) cheese. Serve as an appetizer or main course.
Adapted from Gourmet Today.
I made quite a few substitutions for this salad because I couldn’t find some of the stuff. Feel free to make it your own as well!
Making Nut Mixture
I’ll be completely honest, I think almost every date I’ve ever had has been stuffed with cheese and wrapped with bacon. So the idea of dates in a salad was a bit different, but the dates combined with the nuts worked as a great topping for the salad actually.
To start, roughly chop up the nuts and add them to a small pan with some butter and sugar and toss until the sugar is dissolved and the nuts are lightly browned and candied.
Add these to a food processor along with the dates (be sure to cut out the pits) and give them a whirl! Honestly, you can also just finely chop everything and mix it together and that would work great also.
Making the dressing
One of the substitutions that I was worried most about involved the dressing. I couldn’t find any creme fraiche which the recipe called for. SO I kind of winged it. I tossed in some sour cream, a bit of yogurt, and some cream until it was a good texture and slightly tangy flavor.
Then I added in some chives, crumbled cheese, lemon juice, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Mix this all together!
The Cucumber Topping
Yet another substitution I made. The original recipe called for a tiny amount of apple cider vinegar. I didn’t have any and wasn’t going to buy some just for this recipe so I just used normal white vinegar to give the cucumbers some tang. Worked just fine!
If you ask me though, the fresh dill is definitely not substitutable. It adds a great flavor. Stir these all together and le tit sit for a few minutes to let the flavors combined.
Making the salad
Once you get all the crazy gourmet ingredients in this salad (or my less gourmet substitutions), then this salad is pretty easy to make actually.
Chop up some lettuce (I used iceberg, original calls for butter lettuce). Add a few tablespoons of dressing to the greens. Don’t over-dress them as the dressing can easily overpower everything else.
So this is one of the only specific ingredients that the recipe asked for that I actually found! Dubliner cheese!
It’s really good but it’s pretty close to an extra sharp cheddar so feel free to substitute that even!
Once you have your greens ready and lightly dressed, pile on some cucumber mix and top with the nut/date mixture. Add on some extra slices of cheese and you’re ready to go!
This could almost be a meal in itself with just some nice bread or something.
I baked some chicken and served that with the salad. It was a great meal!
So while maybe I didn’t keep this exactly as gourmet as it was intended, it definitely has flavors that you or your guests probably haven’t had before. Even if you can’t find every part of this salad, give it a shot. I think it’ll impress you.