The classic Waldorf Salad gets dressed up for the holidays with a festive dressing and pomegranate and pecans to join the crisp apple and celery cubes in the bowl. This wonderful fruity salad is a great accompaniment to a traditional holiday feast, or served as a bright fresh side dish to any roasted meat or poultry. (Skip to recipe.)
Thanks to Cosmic Crisp® Washington Apples for sponsoring this post so I could share this tasty recipe with you and tell you about one of my favourite fruits for snacking, cooking, and baking.
The feeling is creeping up on me - are you getting it, too?
I catch myself humming 'Deck the Halls' under my breath and adding a touch of Lebkuchen spice to my morning latté. The snow gently falling outside our windows makes me want to light candles and bring out the boxes of treasured decorations. The spirit of the season is sneaking into my heart, and I am thinking of favourite holiday dishes and feasting with family and friends. This year we will be a smaller group, so instead of the usual Christmas goose, I'll be roasting a duck. Maybe we'll start with a bowl of Chestnut Soup with Stilton Toasts, and there'll be lots of delicious side dishes like mashed potatoes and gravy, Ruby Cream Baked Beets, Apple-Cider Glazed Carrots, and also this bright and crunchy Festive Waldorf Salad.
Seeing that the new crop of those amazing Cosmic Crisp® apples are back in our local stores last week was like an early holiday gift. I have to admit I couldn't wait to buy a bag and just crunch into one while driving home from shopping. Cosmic Crisp® Washington state apples are crispier and sweeter than other varieties - it may just be the best tasting apple. Their remarkably firm and crisp texture makes them perfect for snacking, cooking, and baking. Lucky for us the Cosmic Crisps are now available at major retailers across Canada (I've found them locally at Superstore and at Freson Bros.) and I've stocked up on them for my holiday cooking and snacking (they keep for weeks in the refrigerator crisper drawer).
Why Use Cosmic Crisp Apples in your Waldorf Salad?
Cosmic Crisps are an exciting new apple variety, classically bred at Washington State University and non-GMO. They're a cross between the ‘Enterprise’ and ‘Honeycrisp’. These sweet, large, juicy apples have a remarkably firm and crisp texture, and are naturally slow to brown, so I love using them in recipes (like these Apple & Shrimp Summer Rolls or this Apple Bircher Muesli). You can make up the Waldorf Salad several hours ahead of time and not worry that the Cosmic Crisps will brown or lose their crispness. In fact, the salad is still fresh-tasting and crunchy the next day (if there's any left)! Cosmic Crisps have been cultivated with naturally higher levels of acidity and sugar, so you can cut down on added sweetners in the recipe - making them an exceptional choice for this fresh, bright Festive Waldorf Salad.
The Origins of the Classic Waldorf Salad
Waldorf Salad has been an American classic for well over a century. It was originally created in 1896 to serve at a charity ball held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan, New York City. The Swiss born maître d'hôtel at the time, Oscar Tschirky, is credited for the recipe, originally containing only apples, celery, and mayonnaise. By the early 1920s, grapes and walnuts were added and have become part of the traditional ingredients of this well known salad, a staple side dish on holiday tables or a lovely light luncheon salad (sometimes with cooked chicken or turkey added). This fresh and crunchy salad is easy to make and adds a bright, naturally sweet note to a special meal.
You can stick to the classic version, or you can customize this salad in many delicious ways. For our festive version, we'll use pomegranate seeds instead of grapes and pecans instead of walnuts, and we'll add just a hint of warm spices to the dressing - not enough to overpower, just enough to add a delicious complexity.
Ways you can Customize a Waldorf Salad
- replace part or half of the mayonnaise with regular yogurt or Greek yogurt (for this festive version I prefer all mayonnaise for its creaminess)
- vary the nuts - use softer nuts like walnuts, pecans, cashews, macadamias, pistashios
- use seeds instead of nuts - like sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- use only ½ cup of nuts or seeds
- add dried fruit like raisins, cranberries, or snipped dates or apricots
- use diced fennel bulb instead of celery
- use red or green grapes (instead of the pomegranate), or a combination of both
- use quartered strawberries or diced pineapple instead of the pomegranate or grapes
- add shredded carrot
- add a bit of curry powder and a splash of apple juice to the dressing
- add chopped parsley, chervil, or tarragon
- add finely chopped red onion
- add diced cooked chicken or turkey and turn it into a light luncheon salad
- add diced mild-flavoured cheese (like havarti, mild cheddar, or Monterey Jack)
Let's Make a Festive Version of Waldorf Salad
Making a Festive Waldorf Salad is quick and easy. You'll need a few beautifully bright and crunchy Cosmic Crisp apples, a pomegranate, a couple celery stalks, and a handful of pecans.
Just stir up the simple dressing in a large bowl first. We're adding just a hint of mild spices to make the standard Waldorf dressing more festive. Then dice up the Cosmic Crisps and the celery, toast the nuts, and seed the pomegranate (see how here).
Add the salad ingredients to the dressing, toss, and you're done.
Serve it up on a pretty bed of butter lettuce leaves to look extra special.
Top the salad with a few of the reserved ruby jewels of pomegranate seeds and a few soft green celery leaves.
And it's all dressed for company!
Or Make an After-the-Holidays Waldorf Salad (Use the Leftover Turkey)
If you've got leftover diced roasted turkey around and some leftover Festive Waldorf Salad, toss the two together, add an extra couple tablespoons of mayonnaise, and you'll have a lovely light luncheon salad to serve the day after the holidays when you don't feel like cooking. Or whip up a new Turkey Waldorf Salad: make the salad with only 2 Cosmic Crisp apples and add an extra tablespoon or two of mayonnaise to the dressing. Add about 2 cups (500ml) of diced cooked turkey or chicken, and serve the salad on top of a bed of chopped lettuce. This version is delicious not only after the holidays, but anytime of year when you're looking to serve a more substantial salad as a light meal.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: This salad makes a large amount (serves 8 to 12, depending on how many other side dishes are served), great for entertaining. The leftovers keep well because the Cosmic Crisp apples retain their crispness and won't discolour after refrigerating. However, if you need a smaller amount, it's easy to halve the recipe.
If you want to keep it classic or can't find a pomegranate, just replace the pomegranate seeds with 1 cup of halved seedless grapes (either red or green).
Tip: While toasting the pecans, toast a larger amount and keep them in a sealed jar in your pantry (they keep for up to a month) to add to salads or sprinkle on other dishes throughout the holiday season (delicious on a bowl of porride) or just for handy snacking.
Festive Waldorf Salad
Serves 8 to 12
for the dressing:
- ½ cup good quality mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons water
- zest of half a lemon
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
for the salad:
- 3 large Cosmic Crisp apples (5-6 cups/650-800 gms diced)
- 1 pomegranate, seeded (~1 cup/150 gms of arils)
- 1 cup (140gms) diced celery (~2 long stalks)
- 1 cup (100gms) pecans
- butter lettuce leaves for serving (optional)
Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast in a 350°F/180°C oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until they are fragrant and slightly darkened in colour. Allow to cool, then chop coarsely, leaving some big chunks.
In a large bowl, stir together all the dressing ingredients.
Quarter and core the Cosmic Crisp apples, leaving the skin on, then dice them in ½-inch (1cm) cubes. Add them to the dressing in the bowl. Seed the pomegranate - use about 1 cup of the arils (seeds). Remove and set aside 1 tablespoon of arils to decorate the salad at serving time, and add the rest of them to the bowl.
Dice the celery in smaller cubes than the apples and add them to the bowl along with the chopped pecans.
Toss the salad so the dressing coats everything.
Chill for about 1 hour before serving. Serve the salad atop butter lettuce leaves in a large bowl or on individual plates, if desired. Decorate with the reserved pomegranate arils and a few celery leaves, if you have them.
Leftover salad will keep for 2 to 3 days in the fridge. If the salad gets too dry when serving any leftovers the next day, add a splash of water and stir.
Makes 8 cups (2 litres) of salad. Serves 8 to 12 people, depending on how many other side dishes there are.
Note: If you have leftover Festive Waldorf Salad, you can add a handful of diced leftover turkey or chicken, a bit more mayonnaise thinned out with water, and serve it as a luncheon salad.
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