Some people think October is all about pumpkin spice, but I’m all about the apples.
Let’s see, there’s apple sauce …
apple butter, apple chutney, apple ginger smoothies, apples and acorn squash
apple and butternut squash soup,
apple crisps, apple pie …
And Waldorf Salad.
Waldorf Salad has an interesting history. It was created in 1896 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, by not a chef but the maître d’, Oscar Tschirky. Its original incarnation was just apples, celery, and mayonnaise, and was meant as a palate cleanser after a rich main course. Somehow, New Yorkers forgot about it (my Yankee friends are always perplexed and a little scared at first when I serve it to them!) and the salad migrated its way down South. There, the salad picked up nuts and fresh or dried fruits (grapes, raisins) and became a “special” dish – something you’d serve to your mother-in-law, or eat at the Myers Park Country Club.
And of course, trot out to the Holiday table every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.
It was a great adulting moment in my life when I realized, “Hey – I can make Waldorf Salad any time I want – I don’t have to wait for holidays!”
Ingredients for Waldorf Salad
1/2 cup finely diced Celery (about 3 long stalks)
1/2 teaspoon Celery Seed
2 tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
Pinch of Sea Salt (about 1/8 teaspoon) (optional, but do try it – it really adds a little something)
½ cup Chopped Walnuts OR Pecans
½ cup Raisins OR 1 cup Red or Green Seedless Grapes, halved
1/3 cup Vegenaise or non-dairy Yogurt
1/2- 1 teaspoon Unrefined Sugar
Directions for Waldorf Salad:
1. Chop the apples. As soon as you chop the apples, toss them in the fresh lemon juice to prevent browning.
2. Add the nuts, celery, and grapes or raisins to the bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, add the celery seed, salt, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and sugar to the Vegenaise or yogurt. Stir, then add this dressing to the fruit/nut mixture. Toss gently to coat.
4. Taste. Depending on the sweetness/tartness of the apples used, you may need to add a little more sugar/salt/lemon juice.
5. Chill for several hours before serving.
I usually use Golden Delicious apples, but any sweet/slightly tart apple like Gala or Fuji will also work.
To peel or not to peel? Traditionally the apple peel is left on; HOWEVER only leave the peel on if you’re using organic apples. At Christmas, it looks nice to have a mix of red and green unpeeled apples in the salad.
Sometimes, when you remove your salad from the refrigerator, it will appear as if all your dressing has VANISHED! No biggie – just add a little more “mayo” or yogurt before serving. Keep in mind the salad is supposed to be moist and lightly dressed, NOT swimming in a pool of mayo.
I highly recommend Vegenaise for this recipe – it has a neutral taste and stays creamy. Although my family used Hellman’s, their vegan mayo ironically does not work in this salad – too salty. Mindful Mayo, Spectrum, and Just Mayo are all too tart. As for yogurt, I use homemade – but I think the taste and consistency of Silk yogurt would work just fine!
Celery Seed, if you’re not familiar with it, is a most useful spice to keep on hand. It tastes more like celery than celery itself, and can be used in most fruit salads, potato salads, and pasta salads … often in place of celery itself!
Whatever you do, avoid the Southern Redneck temptation to use lots of sugar, whipped cream, marshmallows, etc. Waldorf Salad is not supposed to be a dessert, but rather, a slightly tart accompaniment to rich dishes.