The apple salad remains a favorite. The textures, flavors, and crunch factor are why this salad, for me at least, has such a huge appeal. Over the years I’ve experimented with the recipe, changing, tweaking, and discarding until last winter when it finally came together.
My friend Carol had just come back from Madagascar and presented me with the lovely gift of red peppercorns. These sweet slightly tangy red orbs are technically not a pepper, but a berry, and are called so due to their size and shape. They are sometimes called pink peppercorns. While preparing this dish for a book club meeting, I decided to toss in a few smashed red peppercorns. Oh boy, was it ever delish! My fellow book worshippers were scraping the bowl.
Hints for this dish: Use firm red apples. Fresh lemon juice is best, but bottled can be substituted. Celery is preferred, but 1 Tbsp. celery seed can be used with good results. The mayonnaise---homemade is key to this dish, but use bottled if you must. You absolutely must not use low fat, fat free, or salad dressing products in this recipe. See my earlier post “Hold the Mayo” for a homemade mayonnaise “how to.” This dish is best when made with large, succulent purple grapes, but other varieties can be substituted. Raisins, dark or golden, can also be used. Red/pink peppercorns might be difficult to find. Penzey’s is where I purchase all of my spices, dried herbs, and seasonings. The quality is excellent and consistent and the prices are reasonable. Use a rubber spatula as a mixing tool as it will not bruise the apples. This dish is best when made an hour or two ahead of time allowing the flavors to meld. However, it can be served immediately.
Twisted Waldorf Salad
¾ c. walnuts
6 red apples
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 c. halved purple grapes (or 1 c. raisins)
1 stalk celery, chopped
¾ c. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. red peppercorns
1 tsp. kosher salt
Sea salt or more kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350. Put the walnuts on a cookie sheet with sides. Place them in the oven to toast. Check after 5 minutes. The walnuts are sufficiently toasted when they are a light golden brown and fragrant. Remove them from the oven to cool completely.
Cut the apples in half and then quarters. Cut out the cores. With a paring knife cut the each quarter into ½ inch pieces directly into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the apple pieces with the lemon juice and mix with a rubber spatula to combine. Add the chopped celery and grapes. Break the walnuts into pieces and add them to the bowl. Stir to combine. Add the mayonnaise and white wine vinegar and stir again to combine.
Place the red peppercorns on the cutting board. Crush them with the flat of a large knife. With a scraper, scoop up the crushed berries and tip them into the bowl. Add the kosher salt and a grind of white pepper. Use the rubber spatula to gently but thoroughly combine the ingredients.
If the salad is to be served immediately, taste and adjust the seasoning. If it is being made ahead of time, scrape into an air-tight container and refrigerate. About 20 minutes before the salad is to be served, remove it from the refrigerator to the counter and allow to sit at room temperature. Just before serving, taste the dish. If necessary, adjust the seasoning. Scrape into a dish and serve.