Summer Berry Cherry Salad with Ham, Salted Caramel Walnuts and Maple Vinaigrette

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There are so many delicious things in this salad that it was impossible to come up with the perfect title. So I wound up with a title that sounds like a Lip Smackers flavor. Summer Berry Cherry! Whatever, we’re going with it.

These SALTED CARAMEL WALNUTS (!!!) are insane, and are the only “cooking” that the salad requires, so I knew they had to be in the title. Actually, that cooking isn’t required – you can totally buy candied nuts at the store and be on your merry way.

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The Maple Vinaigrette will make you want to eat salads for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s that good. So it deserved a starring role in the recipe title too.

The blue cheese is so crucial here – the salt and the funk contrasts so incredibly with the sweet summer berries! And the cucumbers and avocado – they add so much crunch and creaminess! But they got no title love. There simply wasn’t room!

No matter what it’s called, this is a PERFECT summer salad entree.

I love using deli ham in salads because it has so much flavor but requires zero cooking.

Here’s the thing. I could have used prosciutto. I had it in my fridge! A salad with prosciutto in the title might get more clicks, and it definitely looks fancier. But you know what? Ham is about half as expensive, and frankly, even more delicious in many scenarios. I love prosciutto on a pizza, but on a salad? It gets kind of chewy and gummy! BUT NOT HAM! Ham never does me wrong.

I’m not sure why deli meat gets relegated to lunchtime hours, but I’m here to free the deli meat. Sliced ham for dinner!

Or, use absolutely whatever meat you want, or use none! Chickpeas marinated in the dressing for 30 minutes would be a perfect protein for my veggie peeps. 

Please make this salad immediately – everything is in season right now!

Summer Berry Cherry Salad with Ham, Salted Caramel Walnuts and Maple Vinaigrette

Servings 4 people

Ingredients

Salted Caramel Walnuts

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp flaky sea salt

Maple Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  •  Pinch of salt

Salad

  • 6 cups little gem leaves or spring greens 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces sliced deli ham (I like Black Forest but anything works!)
  • 8 ounces(about 2 cups) sliced strawberries
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) spitted, halved cherries
  • 4 ounces(about 1 cup) blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 large Haas avocado, cubed
  • 1/2 English cucumber, halved vertically then sliced into half moons
  • 1/2 cup small fresh mint leaves

Instructions

To make the nuts:

  • Place 1 cup walnuts, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet and warm over medium heat. 
  • Stir often, until the caramel coating has thickened and is coating the nuts, 4 to 7 minutes.
  • Stir in 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt, then transfer the nuts to a piece of parchment paper in a single layer and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt over top. To be nice and crunchy (with no chewy bite) the nuts need to cool for at least a full hour, preferably overnight, uncovered. You can speed up this process by throwing them in the freezer! 
  • Break the nuts apart and use as desired. 
  • To make the vinaigrette: add all ingredients to a jar and shake vigorously to combine. You can also whisk everything in a bowl, but if you do it in a jar you can instantly store all leftovers without getting another dish dirty!

To build the salad: 

  • Place 6 cups lettuce in a large bowl or shallow platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to season the leaves. Seasoning your greens is crucial to a delicious salad!
  • Roll up 6 ounces of ham slices and slice it into 1/4-inch thick “rolls” to make it look like a fun retro Cobb salad. Or just chop it up and throw it in there. 
  • Add the Salted Caramel Walnuts, 2 cups chopped strawberries, 2 cups chopped cherries, 1 cup crumbled blue cheese, 1 chopped avocado, 1/2 of an English cucumber, chopped up, and 1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves to the bowl and toss gently to combine. 
  • Pour in 1/4 cup Maple Vinaigrette and toss to coat all ingredients. Add more dressing as needed until your desired level of dressed-ness (hmmm?) is achieved.

Substitutions

  • Walnuts—> absolutely any nut you have. Pecans would be particularly good!
  • Maple syrup—> brown sugar.
  • Butter—> omit, they’ll still candy without it.
  • Flaky salt—> kosher.
  • Apple cider vinegar—> any vinegar! Balsamic would be great here.
  • EVOO—> plain olive oil or any neutral flavored oil.
  • Dijon mustard—> this is important to thickening your dressing. If you don’t have it, swap in tahini or 1 egg yolk, but whisk it, don’t just shake it!
  • Salad greens—> anything tender and crisp is perfect here. Kale is a little too tough for the vibe we’re going for here.
  • Ham—> prosciutto, chicken, turkey, grilled shrimp. Or obviously feel free to omit to make this a side salad to a meat entree! 
  • Strawberries/cherries—> any summery and delish fruit. Peaches! Apricots! Blueberries! etc.
  • Blue cheese—> goat cheese, feta.
  • Avocado—> omit.
  • Cucumber—> fennel, thinly sliced celery, thinly sliced carrots, raw corn kernels. Anything crunchy and fresh.
  • Mint leaves—> basil or parsley.

Notes

Some packages of ham come in 6 ounce increments, some in 8 ounces. The exact amount isn’t important. Or, grab a half pound (8 ounces) from the deli, freshly sliced! Be sure to ask them to cut it thickly if you want to be able to roll it up and slice up, but that isn’t important. 
Author: Caroline Chambers

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