It’s not often I go to bed knowing exactly what I want to eat the next morning, but the salad I made on Thanksgiving Eve was nothing normal. It was an incredibly flavorful yet oh-so-simple salad that screams “holidays.” And when there are leftovers of this salad in the fridge, that is exactly what I will be having in the morning for breakfast.
A Lighter Lunch Before Thanksgiving Brings Big Surprise
In prep for the holiday feast, I decided to dial our meal plan back a bit on Wednesday. I wanted to make something light and healthy, so I leaned on one of our favorite butternut squash soups (a 2010 recipe) and tried a new salad. David was the one who spotted this in last week’s Food section of the New York Times, where so many fabulous recipes are introduced to the world. It calls on an often disregarded but essential ingredient in the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Celery.
Hold on, because here’s where the alchemy comes into play. Couple crisp celery with thinly sliced sweet apples, blue cheese and roasted almonds. Bring it together with a stellar shallot-mustard vinaigrette and my motor is running. Clearly, this was not an ordinary salad, by any stretch of the imagination. There is zero lettuce–but that’s what I like about it–and it is hearty without being fussy.
Waldorf Salad 3.0
Think of the traditional Waldorf salad of apples, walnuts, grapes and mayonnaise dressing and think of everything you love about it and everything you don’t. This contemporary spin celebrates the good of the classic Waldorf salad–celery, apples and toasted nuts–and leaves out everything bad–grapes and that mayonnaise dressing thing that feels more like glue than a clean, light vinaigrette.
A Winning Holiday Salad
Though conceptually valid, Waldorf salad is too heavy for the Thanksgiving buffet table. Something lighter, crisper and more robust is warranted and this celery salad hits all of the notes. Crisp, watery celery, sweet apple, herby parsley, nutty roasted and salted almonds and stinky gorgonzola or blue cheese make an incredibly satisfying salad that will have everyone asking for more. Made ahead, it can stand on its own for a few hours.
The subtle but flavorful vinaigrette brings it all together so that each ingredient plays a starring role in this seasonal salad that will be a welcome addition to your upcoming holiday parties and gatherings. And, yes, breakfasts, too.
Celery Salad with Apples, Blue Cheese and Roasted Almonds
Hearty but not heavy, this salad hits all of the notes and is worthy of being a star at your next gathering. Perfect for the holidays, celery is the star of the show, but the supporting ingredients can and do play starring roles. Believe me when I tell you this simple salad comes together in a few minutes and will likely disappear in the same amount of time.
For the salad
- 1 head celery, organic root end cut off, rinsed, brown ends chopped off, leaves set aside and celery sliced on the diagonal
- 1 sweet big red apple such as Honeycrisp or Pink Lady
- 1 cup crumbled blue cheese divided, half for garnish
- 1/2 cup chopped roasted and salted almonds plus a small handful for garnish
- 1 cup chopped parsley reserve a few tablespoons for garnish
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and for garnish
For the shallot-vinaigrette
- 1/4 cup minced shallot
- 4 teaspoons coarse mustard
- 1 lemon zested and juiced
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
To make the vinaigrette
In a large bowl, add the shallot, mustard, lemon zest and juice and apple cider vinegar and stir to combine. Allow to meld and sit for five minutes while you make the salad.
When you are ready to add the celery and apples to the vinaigrette, whisk in the olive oil and sugar until everything is emulsified.
To make the salad
Slice the celery on the diagonal and reserve the leaves.
Core the apples and slice them lengthwise into thin wedges using a knife or mandoline.
Now you can go back and finish the vinaigrette.
Add the celery and apples to the vinaigrette and toss the coat. At this point, the salad will hold up well for a few hours--and even overnight--if you want to make it ahead.
Then to the dressed celery and apples, add the parsley, chopped almonds and half the cheese. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer to a shallow bowl or platter and top with remaining blue cheese crumbles, reserved celery leaves, fresh parsley and a small handful of roasted almonds for garnish. Add a few more grinds of black pepper over it all and serve immediately.