Friday, February 10, 2006

The "Waldorf" Salad

I often use walnuts and dried cranberries (not sweetened Craisins) in my salads. It sweetens as well as breaks up the usual routine of tomato-carrot-celery. I once did this for my friend B from Egypt. I brought out the salad and to my delight B took a bite and was wowed: “How did you think to add the nuts with cranberries-- and pear?! This is amazing.” High on the powers of praise, I neglected to tell B that it is actually a fairly popular salad combination here in the States; I merely shrugged.

Much to my delight many a variety of the Waldorf salad is making its way onto menus across the country. Health conscious clientele are pushing the traditional mayonnaise-based dressing out of habit, calling for a more delicate covering, allowing natural tastes to break through.

The Waldorf salad’s namesake comes from the hotel it originated from: The Waldorf Astoria, in New York City. Created in 1886 by the maître d’hôtel, Oscar Tschirky, the original recipe calls for apples, celery and mayonnaise; it was later that walnuts were added to the mix. Since then, the salad has morphed into many variations.

I was recently taken to the famed Waldorf Astoria for a luncheon. The Waldorf salad was ordered out of respect for the establishment. The hotel now adds avocado to their salad, an excellent surprise. I unfortunately (or maybe happily) left that meal so stuffed I was in a food daze the remainder of the day. This meal was the catalyst to the birthday week of gluttony, ending with pants splitting along the leg seam. This incident will also cause me to take a more (somewhat) subdued and healthy approach to cooking this week, starting with this salad today.

There are too many modifications to suit specific tastes over the years that I will only say this: mix and match your favorite nuts, dried and fresh fruits, and lettuce bedding, and you will most likely produce a delicious, healthy salad. For my own, I usually stick with endive, pear and a tossing of good crumbly feta. Today I went without cheese and added radicchio (which resembles a small red cabbage with a slightly spicy taste). I also coated the salad liberally with Lot’s Wyfe New Zealand pink coral salt, and a sprinkle of Manicardi Balsamic Vinegar, my two new favorite kitchen additions. One can also make a light mustard-lemon juice-olive oil vinaigrette.

Serving Size= 2. Prep time= 5 minutes.
* 1 endive head, thinly sliced
* ½ radicchio head, thinly sliced
* ½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced
* 1 apple, thinly sliced (or pear)
* small handful of green beans, washed, trimmed and halved (optional; blanched or raw)
* ¼ cup dried cranberries (or other dried berry)
* ¼ cup chopped walnuts

1) Combine and mix the endive, radicchio, fennel, apple and green beans. Distribute onto 2 plates, sprinkle cranberries and walnuts on top. Drizzle with a good balsamic vinegar, or a homemade mustard-lemon based vinaigrette. Add salt/ fresh ground pepper to taste.
NOTE: Crumbled feta or blue cheese make excellent additions to this salad

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