I did not particularly enjoy salads when I was a kid, certainly not as much as I do now. I enjoyed salad dressing, and I loved to dunk crunchy carrot and celery sticks into small bowls of that dressing as a snack, it took me a while to learn to love lettuce. One of the first salads I can remember eating and loving was a Waldorf Salad. This salad was invented at the Waldorf Hotel in New York City between 1893 and 1896. The salad is still on the menu today at the hotel (now the Waldorf Astoria) – although they’re probably serving a version of it that is a little fancier looking than the original was – and it is one of their most popular items.
The salad is made with apples, walnuts, raisins and toasted walnuts, all chopped up and tossed with a little bit of dressing, salt and pepper. It’s very simple, but it is also very delicious – and even though it is a savory salad, it doesn’t need even a scrap of lettuce. It has a great combination of flavors and textures. I like it as an alternative to fruit salad as a side dish and as a light first course to go with almost any dinner. Some variations of this salad call for fresh red grapes instead of raisins. I perfer the concentrated sweetness of the raisins, but if you prefer to use grapes, they should be cut in halves or quarters to match the size of the rest of the ingredients.
You don’t need to be exact when you chop up your apples and celery for this recipe, but it is best to try to get everything to be roughly the same size because then the flavors will be better balanced as you take each bite. I used fairly small dice to make this salad look upscale, practicing some of the knife skills that I reviewed in my recent knife skills class, but you can definitely use larger dice instead. Season tthe salad to taste with salt and pepper before serving. It may seem tempting to add sugar because of the sweet apples and raisins, but salt really brings out their sweetness and goes much better with the dressing.
This salad is best when it is prepared shortly before serving. You can, however, chop up your apples and celery and hold them in acidulated water for an hour or two in order to get your prep work out of the way in advance. I like to use Fuji or Braeburn apples, but since the apples in this salad are uncooked, you can use any type of apple that you have on hand or that you generally enjoy eating.
1 cup finely diced apples
1 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp greek yogurt
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
Combine apples, celery, raisins and walnuts in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt and lemon juice. Add to apple mixture and toss to coat evenly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.