This is an adult salad. It has bursting deep red cherries, warm oozing cheese, and crisp, deep colored greens. To do it justice it really requires plating and some 'arranging' before consumption--preferably on its own plate. You get to roast cherries, toast hazelnuts, and marinate with grappa, all in one recipe.
I started off by toasting the hazelnuts, and then shimmying off the skins with a dish towel. Roughly chopped them...(actually I put them in a plastic bag and whacked them a few times with a meat tenderizer).
Cherries are everywhere right now and I picked up a nice bright, juicy basket of them on my way home. To roast them, I rubbed them with a dab of olive oil, a splash of grappa, and a pinch of salt. The pinch of salt and the olive oil made these cherries absolutely amazing when they came out of the oven. You really don't expect to get a salty kick when you bite into a cherry--a nice surprise next to the greens and cheese.
Speaking of which, I will confess. I didn't make the effort to track down a 'fairly firm specimen' of Saint Marcellin, with 'only a bit of downy white mold on the surface'....Because I had a nice big half-circle of brie in the fridge that was ready to go - and fit the description close enough. Fairly firm. Downy white. Etc. Next time I promise I will go find the Saint-Marcellin.
The vinaigrette was simple--no chopping required, just oil red-wine vinegar, salt, and a few drops of grappa. Which I have to say, is so strong, I'm convinced it could power my car in place of gasoline. I brought back a beautiful bottle of grappa from Ischia a couple years back when we visited a local winemaker there. At the time, I thought grappa would be sweet - I couldn't have been more wrong. At any rate, it adds a distinctive punch and taste overtones to this salad. Just don't make the mistake of using too much. When the recipe says to add a drop or two, that is literally all you need.
I nested the warm brie and roasted cherries into the lettuce which had been tossed in the vinaigrette. Sprinkled the hazelnuts on top (also tossed in the vinaigrette).
This is one of the prettiest salads I've ever seen, and a breeze to throw together. The colors and textures are stunning. As far as flavor goes, it has a lot of strong, distinctive flavors - the recipe recommends serving it with red meat, pork, or game birds. This salad is certainly substantial enough to stand on its own as a lunch salad with a chunk of peasant bread.
To feature an actual recipe taken from a cookbook, it is best to request permission from the publisher or author. In the early days on 101 Cookbooks, I would tell people where to find the recipe, but not feature the recipe itself. Eventually I began to request permission to run the actual recipes, but this wasn't one of them. The majority of entries on 101 Cookbooks will have the recipes attached, this just happens to be one of the ones that doesn't. My apologies!