Welcoming Fall – Warm Chèvre Salad with Grapes, Heirloom Apples, & Walnuts

It can't be denied anymore; fall came here to stay. Fallen leaves mark my way home from farmers' markets where apples appear in all kinds of colors and shapes. Apples truly are the heroes of fall: local, tasty, and immensely versatile. 

Pink Lady, Golden Delicious, Gala – do yourself a favor and leave those ones at the store. There are so many local heirloom apples to discover! They burst with flavor and are often fierier than their highly commercial counterparts that often are downright boring. My granny used to have apple trees growing in her backyard. I loved to harvest the different varieties and discover their unique flavors; my favorite always was a variety called cinnamon apple which had not only a perfect balance of sweet and sour but, as its name says, a delicate cinnamon flavor. Nowadays I either head to a friend's backyard (like last Sunday and again today) or buy apples at one of those farmers' market stalls that sell apples till it gets too cold to stand outside all day long.

Apple pie may be the first thing that pops into your mind when spotting an apple tree heavy with fruit but they're also lovely in savory dishes, such as with pork. Salads are ridiculously easy to adapt according to the season. Therefore, I often start the shift in seasons on my plate with a seasonal salad. Here I combined crisp apples with the earthy flavors of walnuts, sweet red grapes, and creamy goat cheese and finished it with a walnut vinaigrette. This salad stays interesting till the very last bite.

The perfect way to welcome fall.

P.S. As the vibrant fall colors and apple galore always reminds me of Canada, its lovely people, and all the delicious food I've enjoyed there, I have to mention you the new Canadian group baking blog BAKED. The forces working behind this space are some of the most creative and inspiring ones that the food blogging world has to offer: Laura, Kelly, Gabriel, Kris, and Ashley. Yay!

Warm Chèvre Salad with Grapes, Heirloom Apples, and Walnuts

serves 2

4 handfuls of mixed green salads (I used bloody dock & arugula), washed & dried
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
2 handfuls of walnuts
2 handfuls of red grapes (preferably seedless), halved
2 small apples, thinly sliced and seeds removed (I usually don't core small heirloom apples)
5 cm / 2" log of goat cheese, cut into two disks
olive oil, for frying

for the vinaigrette
3 tbsp walnut oil
1 tbsp dark balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
a drizzle of agave nectar or honey
fine sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

optional: bread, to serve

Toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat stirring regularly until the nuts start to get fragrant. Be careful not to burn them as this can happen quite quickly. Set aside.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and agave nectar. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a non-stick frying pan, fry the goat cheese disks for about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown in color. While the cheese is frying, assemble the salad on plates and drizzle with some vinaigrette. Top with the warm goat cheese and serve immediately.

Warm Chèvre Salad with Grapes, Heirloom Apples, & Walnuts | My Blue&White Kitchen

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A Forager's Meal: Flammkuchen with Funnel Chanterelles, Black Forest Ham & Goat Cheese

My Blue&White Kitchen

The quiet transition from autumn to winter is not a bad time at all. It's a time for protecting and securing things and for making sure you've got in as many supplies as you can. It's nice to gather together everything you possess as close to you as possible, to store up your warmth and your thoughts and burrow yourself into a deep hole inside, a core of safety where you can defend what is important and precious and your very own. Then the cold and the storms and the darkness can do their worst. They can grope their way up the walls looking for a way in, but they won't find one, everything is shut, and you sit inside, laughing in your warmth and your solitude, for you have had foresight.

– Tove Jansson, Moominvalley in November

My Blue&White Kitchen

I was foraging mushrooms with my mom last Friday. It was a chilly day, snow lying here and there in the forest. We were looking for funnel chanterelles. They are quite common at this latitude. They don't mind frost and not even a little snow bothers them much. They grow in groups - the rule is: if you find one, you'll most probably find more. Most often, you'll find more than enough.

In some parts of the world foraging is seen as a thing only hipsters do. But here in Scandinavia most people do it. It's an important part of our culture. For me mushroom hunting is almost meditative. Surrounded by woods and quietness. But actually, if you listen very carefully for a moment, you'll notice that the forest is full of sounds... You also need to focus – keep your eyes open! The mushrooms can so easily be overseen. Last Friday it was even harder than usual as the forest ground was full of fallen leaves that had exactly the same color as the mushrooms we were looking for.

And the joy when you finally spot some! It's the kind of joy one felt in childhood. The purest kind of joy. 

Trumpet Chanterelle :: My Blue&White Kitchen
Chanterelles :: My Blue&White Kitchen

We came home with 3 kilos of funnel chanterelles (and some of this season's last chanterelles too!). Funnel chanterelles have a wonderful flavor. They can be easily dried for preservation. That's what I do with them. That way I can enjoy them all year round! You can find more about drying mushrooms and using them in this previous post.

The first thing I made, after we came home, was a simple but nourishing mushroom soup. There's really no better way to end a foraging day. A couple of days later I made a Flammkuchen, an Alsaser flatbread, topped with funnel chanterelles, some Black Forest ham, and goat cheese. It was so good that I wanted to share this recipe with you, dear readers. 

The base, which is slightly adapted from the delicious:days blog, is a staple in my kitchen. It works every single time. {Nicky uses bread flour instead of all-purpose flour. I'm sure the crust will turn out even better that way but since bread flour is hardly ever available here in Finland, I use all-purpose flour instead.} I recommend to use fresh yeast as baked goods rise far better with fresh than active dry yeast. The topping can of course be adapted to your liking. If you can't find Black Forest ham, use pancetta instead. Or leave the meat out completely. I wouldn't substitute the flavorful funnel chanterelles with button mushrooms as they often lack taste. However, black trumpets would be great!

Red Onions :: My Blue&White Kitchen

Flammkuchen with Funnel Chanterelles, Black Forest Ham & Goat Cheese

crust slightly adapted from delicious:days by Nicole Stich
yields 2 Flammkuchen, serves 4

250 g all-purpose flour
50 g rye flour
½ tsp fine sea salt
175 ml lukewarm water
15 g fresh yeast
1 tbsp olive oil

200 g crème fraîche
2 tbsp heavy cream
fine sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to season
100 g Black Forest Ham {or pancetta}, chopped
350 g (about 4 small) red onions, finely sliced
~150 g (3-4 handfuls) funnel chanterelles (or black trumpets), cleaned & the bigger ones sliced
140 g soft goat cheese

parsley, chopped, to finish
To make the dough: Combine both flours and sea salt in a bowl of a standing mixer {or a large bowl if making the dough by hand}.  Make a well in the center. Dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water. Pour it into the well and add the olive oil. Knead for 3–5 minutes at medium speed. The dough is ready when it's elastic and comes clean off the sides of the bowl. Shape into a ball and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 45 minutes. After the dough has risen, punch it down, shape into a ball again, and let rise for further 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 250°C (480°F) or as hot as your oven gets. If you want, you can place a baking tray at the bottom level so it gets preheated. It works like a pizza stone and ensures a perfect crust! 

To make the topping:  Combine the crème fraîche and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper.

To arrange: Divide the dough into 2 equally sized portions and shape into a ball. Flatten the ball with your hands. Using a rolling pin, roll it out on a lightly floured surface. We want to have a thin crust! Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Evenly spread half of the crème fraîche mix on top and top with the other toppings {starting with the ham and ending with the goat cheese}.

Bake for 10–15 minutes, or until the crust has gained a golden brown color. While the first Flammkuchen is in the oven, you can arrange the other one. Remove the Flammkuchen from the oven when ready and sprinkle with some chopped parsley. Slice and serve hot or at room temperature.

flammkuchen with funnel chanterelles, black forest ham, & goat cheese :: my blue&white kitchen
flammkuchen with funnel chanterelles, black forest ham, & goat cheese :: my blue&white kitchen

Looking for more topping ideas for flatbread? Here are some of my favorites:  

swans :: my blue&white kitchen

We spotted some swans on our way home!