The Winning Weeknight Dinner We're Making Daily 'Til Apple Season Ends

Savory, roasty, tangy, crunchy, and a touch sweet.

November 16, 2018
Photo by Mark Weinberg

Our last contest, Your Best Recipe With Apples, came to an unexpected showdown between dinner and dessert. Dinner, that wily thing, prevailed, and we were pleased to share our new favorite fall dish with the world: the winning Roasted Apple & Fennel Salad With Toasted Hazelnuts & Goat Cheese.

We've since had a chance to catch up with its creators, private chef cohort What We Eat Gals, to dish about their dish. Here's what they had to say:

Could you tell us more about when and how you developed the recipe? Was it for a special occasion? Is it a recipe you've been making for years?

Rian Tompkins, one of our little team of four chefs at What We Eat, was the genius behind this recipe. She prepared something similar last year with fresh pears and blue cheese for a “family meal” and we all went crazy for it. When Food52 announced this contest, she immediately thought about how that original inspiration could be adapted to highlight apples instead.

Out went the pears, blue cheese, and toasted walnuts. In came a ton of fresh-from-the-farm apples, creamy goat cheese, and toasted hazelnuts. We love to think of recipes as templates like this.

What're your favorite type of apples, if it's possible to pick just one?

Any that are tart, crunchy, and as freshly harvested as possible. Honeycrisp and macoun are Rian’s two go-tos.

You wrote in the recipe headnote that you sometimes serve this dish with chicken or pork. What's your favorite accompaniment?

We could eat this salad as-is and be super happy about it. But, we’d never say no to a delicious marinated and seared pork tenderloin. Pork, apples, and fennel were meant for each other.

When you serve this salad as the entree of a meal, do you serve anything on the side, like a big hunk of crusty bread?

If we were enjoying this salad as a main, we’d more likely serve it atop a whole grain like chewy farro, or a few scoops of quinoa, then dress it with a heavier hand so the grains could soak up some of the goodness.

What are some of your other favorite recipes on Food52? If you had to pick one to go with this apple salad, which would it be and why?

Oh wow, we have so many. We’ve made this spinach, artichoke and feta dip countless times for ourselves and our clients. We love ABC’s squash on toast as an appetizer or entree with fried eggs. The farro with roasted sweet potato, kale, and pomegranate seeds is right up our alley.

We cook for several artists studios in Brooklyn and a bunch of families in Brooklyn and Manhattan on a weekly basis and constantly vary our menus. Food52 is our number one source of menu inspiration so it’s hard to pick favorites. Another one of our favorites that would pair well with this salad, especially for a warm winter lunch, would be Merrill’s Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Sherry.

What's your most splattered, stained, dog-eared cookbook?

Just one? If we had to pick, perhaps Ottolenghi’s Plenty. Ottolenghi taught us how to cook with herbs in abundance, how to play with textures, how to make each dish as beautiful as it is delicious, and so much more. We also love Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy, David Tanis’ Platter of Figs, everything written by Nigel Slater, and so many more.

And your can’t-cook-without kitchen tool?

Microplane! It grates garlic and ginger in an instant, zests citrus easily, and can even grate cheese! If you don’t have one, GET ONE.

Are you a savory or sweet breakfast person? (Or, gasp, not a breakfast person at all?)

The girls at What We Eat are definitely salty-sweet breakfast people. We make and sell our own granola that is a nice combo of those two elements. We put it on everything. The usual yogurt and fruit combo. Sprinkled on french toast, pancakes, green smoothies, etc. Baked into or on top of banana and zucchini breads as a type of “streusel.” We’re kind of obessed.

You’re on a desert island and you can have one dessert. What is it?

Rian says baklava. No contest.

We certainly won't put up a fight about that!

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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.