Harvest Salad with Caramelized Onions

Years ago, I was invited to join a book club. We started with the lovely narrative cookbook Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. Our little group, who hardly knew each other in the beginning, formed an intense bond over all those nights cooking and eating, sharing life at the table.

Fast forward, and one of those dear friends, who I met by joining that book club, had a birthday. My house filled up with new and old friends, kids running everywhere, wine glasses clinking, and the table jam-packed with platters of food. We laughed until our sides hurt and stayed up way too late. I had to run my dishwasher three times to wash all the dishes we used, but it was absolutely worth it, for the time around the table together.

This salad is the epitome of how I love to cook and eat. Fresh, simple and easy but a little surprising too. The caramelized onions give the salad a rich hearty flavor and balances out the tang of the goat cheese and tart crisp apple. Sweet blackberries and crunchy almonds add just the right flavor and texture.

The salad and the vinaigrette are loosely inspired by Bread and Wine and seemed like the perfect thing to make for my friend. We grilled steaks to go alongside our salad and ate peach crisp with scoops of melting caramel ice cream for dessert.

I make a version of this salad year around, swapping out seasonal ingredients based on what’s fresh and available. In the spring I use blueberries and strawberries and in the winter, I pile the greens high with dried cranberries and roasted squash. The only things that don’t change are the caramelized onions and the balsamic dressing. Don’t hesitate to make this salad yours, experimenting with the flavors you prefer. Pears, dried cranberries, toasted pecans and gorgonzola cheese would be a lovely combination for fall. Go wild, you can’t go wrong.

Harvest Salad with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Dressing

  • 1 8 oz. container organic baby spinach
  • 1 honey crisp apple, thinly sliced
  • 1 6 oz. container fresh blackberries
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup toasted slivered almonds

Maple Balsamic Dressing

  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Start by caramelizing the onion. In a medium saucepan, drizzle two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over thinly sliced onions. Give the onions a quick stir and sprinkle with kosher salt. Turn the heat to medium-low and cover with a lid. Stir every couple minutes until the onions are richly brown and condensed down by about half, usually about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, layer the honey crisp apple, blackberries, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds and slivered almonds over baby spinach. Top everything with the caramelized onions. Drizzle with maple balsamic dressing and mix to combine all ingredients. Serve immediately.

To make the salad dressing, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard and a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper in a jar with a lid. Shake well until ingredients are well-combined. Drizzle dressing over salad. Store extras in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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