This salad came about when I was thinking of how to use up some extra celery. You see, I’m not a huge fan of raw celery. And about the only way I really like it is when it’s smothered in peanut butter. Which got me thinking about Ants on a Log. Which got me thinking about how to turn those favorite childhood snacks into a salad.
But what started out to be a whimsical salad, turned out to be one of the most delicious and flavorful fall salads I’ve ever eaten! Slices of sweet tart apples, crunchy celery, tangy red onions, shavings of carrots pair with some fancy ants. I decided to use dried cranberries, golden raisins and chopped dried apricots. Pile it on top of some soft butter lettuce and drizzle it with a sweet and savory peanut butter dressing. And don’t forget the pumpkin seeds!
There is nothing much better or more simply satisfying in life than a crisp fall apple. Use your favorite. But mine is the McIntosh. I wanted a sweet tart apple to cut through the sweetness of the dried fruit and dressing. And because there’s already so much natural crunch to this salad, I used some soft, tender butter lettuce.
This peanut butter dressing though. It’s everything! This is not a Thai inspired dressing. Though it is just as savory as it is sweet and creamy. The peanut butter is mixed with white balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice, salt & pepper, and then thinned with some refreshing coconut water! I think you’re going to want to make a double batch! It’s perfect for dipping, too!
And the ants? Well you could use traditional raisins for sure. I fancied mine up a bit by using a combination of dried cranberries, golden raisins and chopped apricots. It really gave this crunchy salad a soft, sweet chewy bite!
There are so many colorful elements to this salad. Greens, purple, reds, orange. And while I mainly used McIntosh apples, I cut off some cheeks of granny smiths, red delicious, and ginger gold and used my mini cookie cutters to make some leaf shapes for added whimsy and color.
This apple and dried fruit salad has it all. Sweet, tart, tangy, creamy, crunch, chewy, salty, savory. I won’t tell you how many helpings I ate in one sitting. It was more than one. Let’s just leave it at that!
I love this salad just as it is. But here’s how you can MAKE IT YOUR OWN:
- Use a variety of apples to change up the taste, color and texture.
- Use pears instead of apples. Or a combination of both.
- Swap out the butter lettuce for your favorite greens. Or how about spinach? Or keep it totally crunchy by adding romaine.
- Use different “ants”. Maybe you want to stick with the classic raisins. Or how about dried cherries instead? Use your favorite dried fruit.
- I sliced my ingredients and served the dressing on the side. Make it a chopped salad and mix the dressing into it.
- Instead of peanut butter dressing, try it with an Apple Cider Vinaigrette and add some cheddar cheese.
- Instead of pumpkin seeds, add chopped peanuts, walnuts or pecans instead.
- FOR THE SALAD:
- 5 cups of butter lettuce
- 2 apples, sliced
- 1½ cups of chopped celery
- ½ of a small red onion, sliced thin
- 2 carrots, shaved or grated
- ⅓ cup of dried cranberries
- ⅓ cup of golden raisins
- ⅓ cup of chopped dried apricots
- ¼ cup of pumpkin seeds
- FOR THE DRESSING:
- ½ cup of creamy peanut butter
- 3 Tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon of pure maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons of worcestershire sauce
- ¼ teaspoon of pumpkin or apple pie spice
- 6 Tablespoons of coconut water
- salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste
- Toss the salad ingredients together.
- In a mini processor, mix the peanut butter, vinegar, maple syrup, worcestershire sauce, and pie spice till combined.
- Add the coconut water, 1 Tablespoon at a time to get your desired consistency. (I used 6 Tablespoons, but add more if you want a thinner consistency).
- Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste.
- NOTE: I like to place my lettuce on a serving platter or bowl, top it with the remaining salad ingredients and serve the dressing on the side.
- But feel free to mix everything together if you prefer.
All of my salads and dressings are just a starting place for your imagination. So feel free to add or swap ingredients and do what works for you!