White: Waldorf salad is a delicious choice for apple season

This was an incredibly busy week. There were friends for dinner, then another day at Pepe's. Tuesday I drove to Middletown to talk with Suzanne Thompson during her radio show, "CT Outdoors" on WLIS. Then off to work at my dentist's office and, finally, home for dinner and hunkering down for the debate.

Wednesday my VW went in for its checkup prior to its six-month hibernation. Saturday was tea at the Bee and Thistle (yummy sandwiches, scones and frighteningly good sweets, along with three different teas) then a couple hours off before driving to the Cooley Gallery in Old Lyme to listen to Jan Cummings-Good talk about her decades-long evolution with art.

She is such a lovely speaker and her art is less evolution than journey, with her painting as fresh today as it was when she was barely a teenager.

Best of the week, though, was a visit to Susie and Arthur Katz in Stratford. Although it was a bit rainy on the way down, I arrived at their condo (right near Sikorsky but truly in the woods) in less than an hour.

Then we drove to the Dressing Room, a restaurant nestled right next to the Westport Playhouse, and had one of the best dinners ever.

Oysters two ways (warm and raw), delicious tomato sauce drizzled with a swirl of oil, ribs that were dazzling, a duck ragu and Michel Nishan's ethereal meatloaf with rich, rich mashed potatoes.

Fortunately, we shared most of the dishes. Lori Nishan and her husband/chef/owner Michel made sure we each had a plate of Waldorf salad. I finished mine and begged Suzie to give me hers when she was done.

Why has it been so long since I'd made this, especially during apple season? No Waldorf salad could be like the one at the Dressing Room, but this is a great recipe.

Chicken Waldorf Salad

From The Apple Lover's Cookbook by Amy Traverso (Norton, New York, 2011)

Yield: 4 serving as a lunch entrée, 6 as a side dish

For the dressing:

¼ cup fresh lemon juice, divided

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1/3 cup low-fat (2 percent) Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon

1 teaspoon honey

½ teaspoon lemon zest

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons minced sweet onion, such as Walla Walla, Vidalia or Ososweet

For the salad:

2/3 cup walnut pieces

½ pound breast and/or thigh meat from rotisserie chicken, tearing into 2- to 3-inch strips

1 to 2 large celery stalks (about 4 ounces), sliced crosswise very thinly

6 ounces butter (Boston) lettuce

1 cup halved seedless red grapes

1 medium salad-friendly apple (about 6 ounces), like Fuji or Gala, cored and cut into thin wedges

1. Make the dressing: in a salt bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon lemon juice with the olive oil and one-quarter salt. Set aside. In another small bowl, stir together yogurt, mayonnaise, tarragon, honey, remaining lemon juice, lemon zest, remaining salt and pepper stir in onion. Set aside while you prepare the salad.

2. Toast walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until brown and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Pour into a medium bowl and let cool. Add chicken to the bowl of walnuts. Add celery and dressing and stir so that everything is evenly covered.

3. In a serving bowl, toss lettuce, grapes and apple slices with the lemon-oil dressing, spoon the chicken mixture over all. Use your hands to lightly fluff the leaves and grapes, just to make it look pretty. Serve on chilled salad plates.

LEE WHITE HAS BEEN WRITING ABOUT RESTAURANTS AND COOKING SINCE THE LATE 1970S. EMAIL HER AT LEEAWHITE@AOL.COM.

Nibbles

A few weeks ago, when I made Sunday gravy (a heavy red sauce), I bought two packages of Rustichella d'Abruzzo penne. (About $9 for slightly more than a pound.)

This is absolutely not a pasta you serve to your children, topped with Ragu. But it does make such a delicious difference that I have been trying to find it for less.

I can get it from Amazon.com, but then there is the cost of shipping. Sometimes I can find it for a bit less at Whole Foods.

If you don't mind paying way more for your pasta than your sauce, Fromage in Old Saybrook has it all the time. But this Nibble is a plea to you: if you find it anywhere for appreciably less, please let me know.

In the meantime, I will go to Whole Food soon and hope for the better.

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