To get me in the mood for my upcoming New York voyage, I wanted to cook something quintessentially New York. What came to mind were the sights and smells of Honey Roasted Nuts served in small paper bags, the irresistible hallal chicken and lamb shawarma’s on the street, the aroma of fresh coffee in the morning in blue and white ‘We are happy to serve you’ paper cups, along with fresh bagels with cream cheese and lox eaten on the way to work. Black and White cookies larger than my hands, tingling hot roasted chestnuts on a cold winter’s eve, the softest pretzels in Central park, and the sight of rugged men cutting pastrami at Katz’s. And when you only have a few bucks to spare; a Gray’s Papaya hot dog smothered in mustard and ketchup.
Instead, however, I went back to a simple recipe that was was born and bred on 50th and Park, within the lavish settings of the Waldorf Astoria.
The Classic Waldorf Salad we’ve all come to know and love, was created by Oscar Tschirky, the maître d’hotel in the 1890’s. It was traditionally made up of fresh apples, celery, dressed in mayonnaise served on a bed of lettuce. (The nuts were added later).
I’ve added a little sass to my version of the recipe, with a few enticing additions and substitutions; candied walnuts, blue cheese, and fresh mint.
After all, in an ever-changing city, growing, developing and evolving everyday, I believe this classic salad be kept au courant too.
Cole Porter said it right, ‘You’re the top! You’re a Waldorf Salad.’
4 Large handfuls of mixed lettuce leaves; mesclun, frisee, romaine, endive, rocket, spinach, watercress- whatever you fancy! Washed and spun dry
1 Handful of seedless green and red grapes sliced in half
1 Medium-Large Apples cut into slices, and quartered
3 medium sticks of celery trimmed and sliced
1/2 Cup Candied Walnuts (See how to make candied walnuts below)
Small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, stems discarded and roughly chopped
Small bunch of fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
5 0z of blue cheese
For the dressing:
1 heaped teaspoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons of olive oil
1 heaped tablespoon of natural yoghurt
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For Candied Walnuts:
1/2 Cup Raw walnuts roughly chopped
2-3 tablespoons Granulated Sugar
Sprinkling of Sea Salt
What to do!
For Candied Walnuts:
- Heat a skillet over medium heat, add walnuts, sugar and salt. Sit mixture continuously with a wooden spoon to avoid burning the sugar. The sugar granules will liquefy.
- Continue stirring, making sure to scrape bottom of pan to avoid sticking and burning.
- The sugar should begin changing color about 6-8 mins after sugar melts. Stir until all of the walnuts have a sugar coating.
- Remove from heat.
- Spread sugared walnuts on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Break large clumps with a fork.
- Allow walnuts to cool completely.
For the Salad & Dressing:
Add your lettuce leaves, celery, grapes and apples, parsley and mint in a large salad bowl.
Add the dressing ingredients in Glass jam jar, and shake vigorously until emulsified together.
Drizzle dressing over the leaves. Toss.
Add the candied walnuts.
Crumble good size chunks of Blue Cheese onto the salad and toss gently.