Winter salad, American style

When people discovered how easy Waldorf salad is to make, it became a favorite starter to make at home.

waldorf salad 88 (photo credit: )
waldorf salad 88
(photo credit: )
Around Hanukka time making Israeli salad often is not so practical, as tomatoes tend to be pale and pricey. Of course, you can make green salad but not everyone is enthusiastic about it. At a recent Thanksgiving party, I was reminded of an old-fashioned American favorite, Waldorf salad, which is also good for Hanukka. Rich, delightfully crunchy, with a touch of sweetness, this medley of apples, celery and nuts is ridiculously easy to make but somehow is glamorous. The salad had elegant beginnings. It was created by Oscar Tshirky, the maitre d'hotel of the New York Waldorf Hotel, for its opening in 1893. According to Marion Morash, author of The Victory Garden Cookbook, the original version had diced peeled apples and celery mixed with "a good mayonnaise," which classically has no sugar. For her adaptation, she tossed diced apples with lemon or orange juice, then mixed them with celery, chopped walnuts and plenty of mayonnaise (1 cup for 4 to 6 servings), diluted with 1⁄4 cup heavy cream if too thick. When people discovered how easy Waldorf salad is to make, it became a favorite starter to make at home. To make the salad more colorful and quicker to prepare, most cooks decided not to peel the apples. Some took the salad in a sweeter direction, adding more fruit. In The Kitchen KATalogue by Kehillat Ahavat Tzion (edited by Marsha Twersky), Leeba Bell suggests you always have canned pineapple in your pantry so you can whip up a simple Waldorf salad by mixing the pineapple with apples, walnuts and mayonnaise. Dorothy B. Marsh, editor of Good Housekeeping Cookbook, added raisins to her Waldorf coleslaw of shredded green cabbage, red apples and nuts dressed with sweet and sour mayonnaise, and noted that you could substitute grapes, oranges, pineapples or peaches. Her pear Waldorf salad also had sugar in the mayonnaise, and coconut as an alternative to the walnuts. For a fruited Waldorf salad, she added pineapple and grapes, as well as any nuts you like - chopped salted peanuts or chopped walnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, almonds or filberts. This American appetizer became so popular that it even entered the French chefs' manual, Le Repertoire de la Cuisine, in two versions. One is made with diced celery root, a favorite in France but not in the US, which is mixed with apples, fresh walnut halves and thin mayonnaise. The second Waldorf salad, in the "American salads" chapter, also has diced bananas. Marsh also used the Waldorf principle to make an easy main course chicken Waldorf salad. She added diced red apples and chopped walnuts or peanuts to the usual American-style chicken salad dressed with celery and mayonnaise. I have a soft spot in my heart for Waldorf salad. I prepared it in my first attempt at entertaining, when I had no clue about preparing food but wanted to invite some friends over. From my only cookbook (Betty Crocker's Cookbook published in 1969), I followed the recipe and was delighted when my guests said "that was the best Waldorf salad we ever had." Who knows, their enthusiasm might have been just the encouragement I needed to continue learning to cook. The recipe, by the way, was 2 cups diced unpared apple, 1 cup diced celery, 1⁄3 cup coarsely chopped nuts and 1⁄2 cup mayonnaise. These days I prefer lighter dressings. Balance is the key, so that the sweet flavors do not overpower the savory ones. Kitty Morse, author of The California Farm Cookbook, presents a spicy variation of Waldorf salad created by horseradish farmers. Their horseradish apple-pear salad wasn't called Waldorf but has the same basic ingredients, with toasted almonds replacing the walnuts, and a lively dressing of fresh horseradish, lemon juice, sugar, salt and whipped cream. WINTER WALDORF SALAD WITH ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH Select apples with a tender peel, if possible. If you happen to have apples with tough skins, cut them in very small cubes. If you like, serve the salad on a bed of diced romaine lettuce. Instead of making the creamy mayonnaise dressing below, you can make a vinaigrette with 1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic or wine vinegar, salt, pepper and 4 to 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or canola oil. You can add 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard to either dressing for a slightly spicy note. For a conventional Waldorf salad, omit the squash and the cucumber. a 1-kg. butternut squash (Hebrew dalorit) 1⁄3 cup walnuts or pecans 1 large green apple 1 large sweet red apple 1 cup diced celery, first peeled of any strings 1 cup diced cucumber (optional) 4 to 6 Tbsp. mayonnaise, or 2 to 3 Tbsp. mayonnaise and 2 to 3 Tbsp. plain yogurt 1 Tbsp. lemon juice (optional) Salt Freshly ground pepper (optional) Preheat oven to 225º. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out and discard seeds. Place squash cut side down on rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 40 minutes. Scoop out flesh and cut into 1-cm. chunks. Reduce oven temperature to 175º. Put nuts on a baking sheet. Toast them in oven, shaking baking sheet once or twice, until aromatic and very lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Chop nuts coarsely. Slice apples, then cut in small dice. In a bowl combine apples, celery, cucumber, squash and all but 1 or 2 tablespoons walnuts. Add mayonnaise. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Serve sprinkled with remaining nuts. Makes 4 or 5 servings. The writer is the author of Faye Levy's International Vegetable Cookbook.