It’s pretty well-known—by people who know me—that when raisins are around, I tend to back away slowly. (Unless they’re golden, that is.) So when I saw the celery salad riff of Ants on a Log in Molly Baz’s new cookbook, Cook This Book, I almost swiped left (or, uh, turned the page) before giving it the attention it deserved.
Upon further inspection, I realized that Baz’s take on the children’s snack of celery sticks filled with peanut butter and topped with a parading row raisins is actually a rather sophisticated side dish.
Baz skirts the raisin issue entirely by swapping in sweet, chewy, earthy dates—which, for the record, can also markedly improve your cookies too. There’s no actual peanut butter in the salad either. Instead, roasted, salted peanuts bring big crunch and provide that satisfyingly familiar flavor.
The base of the salad is a jumble of celery slivers tossed with a second constant peanut butter companion: tart green apple slices. Baz rounds things out with piquant sliced shallots, fresh herbs (she recommends mint or basil, but I can personally vouch for cilantro as another great option), and a simple chile-flecked, honey-sweetened vinaigrette.
The juicy, bright, crisp combo is ideal for anything you’ve got going on the grill this summer: tangy barbecue chicken; rich, caramelized pork chops; or spicy, creamy eggplant. But it also makes a great picnic side (the vinegary dressing will keep the apple from browning before you get to the park, beach, or backyard). It can become a topping too: Piling leftovers onto fish sandwiches was one of the best choices I made last week.
Want to make it more of a meal? With a little extra dressing, this salad would welcome a few handfuls of crispy tofu or shredded rotisserie chicken. Or you could skip the additions and, instead of dividing the recipe among four people, split it between just two. Or keep it all to yourself. Just like you may have—allegedly—done with a platter full of O.G. ants on a log as a kid. You’re an adult now; who’s gonna stop you?Molly Baz
Originally Appeared on Epicurious