Waldorf Salad Recipe: The Simple, Sophisticated Fruit Salad
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The Classic Waldorf Salad
Do you need to contribute a simple yet sophisticated dish to a holiday meal or potluck dinner? This recipe is simple, nutritious and incredibly flavorful! Low in calories and naturally gluten free, this is a course that can be enjoyed by everyone (those with nut allergies may omit the walnuts). This salad also keeps well for up to five days, so you can make it a day ahead, as the flavors improve over time.
Tradition has it that the first Waldorf salad was created in New York City in 1893, at the venerable Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Composed initially of grapes, celery and apples, the salad has had few variations over the last century. Walnuts were added mid-twentieth century; however, the dressing has seen only minor adjustments including, more recently, substituting yogurt for mayonnaise.
This recipe fittingly came down to our family via the New York Times over 35 years ago. It shakes up the traditional recipe by substituting dry vermouth for lemon juice. The result is a surprisingly refreshing dressing for the sophisticated palate. Make this salad a day ahead of the occasion, and you will find that the dressing thickens—the fruits absorb the vermouth and they then release their essences into the dressing to create rich flavorful fruit salad with a delicious crunch to it.
- 1 cup diced red apples (unpeeled), in 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch cubes
- 1 cup diced celery (approximately 2 stalks)
- 1 cup green seedless grapes, halved
- 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup dry vermouth
- Combine the chopped apples, chopped celery, halved grapes and walnuts in a wooden or glass bowl. (Do not use a reactive bowl such as copper or aluminum.)
- In a separate bowl, combine vermouth and mayonnaise. Whisk together until smooth and creamy.
- Pour the vermouth and mayonnaise mixture over the fruit combo and toss.
- Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour prior to serving. Refrigerate overnight for best results. Toss and serve on individual plates lined with lettuce leaves (I suggest Bibb, butter, Boston or romaine).
Non-Alcoholic Alternative to Vermouth
If for health or religious reasons you or a family member is avoiding alcohol, this non-alcoholic version of vermouth adds the flavor you need to make this distinctive salad dressing. Its hints of spice include notes of cinnamon, ginger and clove.
Waldorf Salad Pairings
Following in the tradition of its namesake, the Waldorf salad pairs well with a variety of elegant dishes. Roasted turkey, beef and baked ham all benefit from the contrast this classic salad provides. It is best enjoyed when served with white wine or champagne on special occasions. As it holds up well over several days, be sure to make enough to enjoy this salad with your holiday leftovers.
History of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel
The fabled New York hotel, the Waldorf Astoria, began life as two separate hotels, owned by feuding family members: William Waldorf Astor and his cousin, John Jacob Astor IV. The original Waldorf Hotel was built next door to William Astor’s aunt, Caroline Astor, in large part in order to irritate her.
As expected, the construction of a hotel next to Ms. Astor’s residence served to worsen the feud between them. John Jacob Astor (who later perished on the Titanic) returned the favor by building the larger Astor Hotel next door to the Waldorf. In time the two hotels were joined by the “Peacock Alley” creating what was then the world’s largest, and arguably America’s most posh, hotel.
The Peacock Alley was the place to stroll to see and be seen by society, serving to advance women’s rights, as well, as young ladies were allowed to be admitted singly, without escort—a bold innovation for the day.
The original hotel was demolished to make way for the Empire State Building. However, the hotel was moved to its present-day location where it continues to maintain the high standards of its origins. Notable residents of the modern Waldorf Astoria have included Marilyn Monroe, "Bugsy" Siegel and "Lucky" Luciano.