Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hold the Mayo

I know there is a strong cadre of mayonnaise haters out there. You're really passionate people. I wouldn't exactly call myself a hater per se, but I only care for mayo in small doses. Maybe that makes me mayo adverse? I love chicken salad, for instance, but I end up grilling the poor waiter about how much mayo is in their recipe and am usually filled with great distrust when the server assures me "it's not too mayonnaise-y." And for the record, most of the time they're liars. Typically I'll take a good mustard on a sandwich, and eschew most mayonnaise-based salads because someone in the kitchen is usually mayonnaise happy. [Btw, I think these are also the sample people who dress the salads.] With most dishes, I think the whole should be greater than the sum of the parts. Therefore excessive mayo doesn't work in that equation—and I'm not even that good in math. 

As the weather warms and summer nears, I've had picnics on my mind. On the weekends, I usually run by the Santa Barbara Mission, which has a beautiful rose garden adjacent to it. People tend to flock there on the weekends to picnic. It's the kind of place that invites you to linger and never really feels crowded, with people somehow carving out little slices of privacy to enjoy the views and the company of friends or family along with a nibble and a glass of wine. But picnics can kind of be tricky because you need dishes you can make ahead of time, transport easily, are unfussy to serve, and can hold up for a few hours. The classic Waldorf salad is often suggested, yet often causes me to raise my eyes. Do people really eat that? 

Yes, I know it's a famous salad concocted by Oscar Tchirky, the maître d'hôtel of New York's Waldorf Astoria, in 1893 and is now served by many restaurants and delis as a lunch staple. My narrow-minded opinion is that it's a few fairly uninteresting ingredients, such as red apple, celery, and walnuts, slathered in mayonnaise. Oh and it also has raisins in it. The only time I really want to eat raisins is in an oatmeal cookie and even then I'd prefer chocolate chips. 

But the recipe in the June issue of Ladies' Home Journal made me reconsider. Well, maybe I should give credit to the food stylist and photographer. They presented their "All-New Waldorf Salad," which appeared to contain nary a drop of mayo in it. Whereas I'd usually be thinking, "Next..." as I turned the page, this vibrant salad caught my eye. This interesting version was comprised of colorful pieces of apple, radicchio, and dried cranberries tossed with the requisite walnuts and celery but mixed with a hint of honeyed Greek yogurt dressing instead of the usual mayonnaise. OK, that sounded like something even the mayo adverse might like.

So I made it last weekend. And guess what? I liked it. A lot. And so did a lot of other people—even kids. As such, I must rescind my previous position on the Waldorf. It is something people eat. And even more people—including the mayonnaise haters of the world—would probably eat it and enjoy Waldorf salad if this recipe was used.

Happy Memorial Day weekend! In the words of Joseph Campbell, "A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself." Thank you to all the heroes who serve or have served. You are appreciated and remembered by this Army Brat. 

All-New Waldorf Salad

1/2 cup (4 oz) plain Greek yogurt (non-fat is fine)
2 1/2 tsp honey
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 ground black pepper
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup thinly sliced celery
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 head of radicchio, roughly chopped
1 sweet apple, cored and chopped

Whisk together the yogurt, honey, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Chill until ready to eat. Serves 8
Note: I did have to do a little "maneuvering" on this recipe. I added more celery and apple to get the right ratio and then added some more honey and lemon juice for my personal taste. So start with the recipe as a base but be prepared to tweak if needed. 


  1. This looks delicious! So glad I came across your blog - so many recipes to try!

    - Kathleen