October 23, 2013

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Photo by Judith Hausman

This fall, try this Waldorf-style salad.

Created between 1893 and 1896 in the kitchens of the famed Waldorf (now the Waldorf Astoria) Hotel in New York City, this “composed” salad is still perfect for fall with its bracing flavors of apple, nuts and tangy celery. I’ve always been partial to it despite its old-fashioned mayo dressing and thought of it again when a friend handed over two matte-skinned Asian pears from her own backyard trees. She warned me to add some oomph to them because, although they are very juicy and sweet, their flavor can lack depth. The rough, greenish skin must also be peeled away. 

The celery and nuts of a Waldorf seemed like good balancing ingredients, and I modernized the dressing with a light vinaigrette, made with delicate nut oil and sherry vinegar. I diced the peeled Asian pears, along with a bunch of local, organic celery and a hoard of whole hazelnuts, which were waiting patiently in my fridge, as well, and dressed the mix. 

You can add a little honey mustard or sugar to the dressing if you like or substitute lemon or lime juice for the vinegar. The nuggets of blue-veined Gorgonzola cheese I tossed in next took the salad a giant step away from the hotel Waldorf, but its salty richness unified all the elements brilliantly. The cheese could also tip the dish from side to autumn lunch, I thought, served with nothing more than good, rough bread … or perhaps, popovers?

Servings: 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 Asian pears, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 small bunch celery (5 or so ribs and some leaves), diced
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/3 cup walnut or hazelnut oil
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • about 1/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
PREPARATION
In a small, dry sauté pan, or on a toaster oven tray, toast the hazelnuts briefly, less than five minutes. Then cool and chop them coarsely. Gently toss the diced Asian pears, celery and nuts. Beat oil and vinegar together with a fork and pour over the salad. Adjust seasoning to taste. Sprinkle with cheese and re-toss.

 

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