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Make Your Easter a "Waldorphian" One

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It took more than 120 years for the classic salad of the famed Waldorf-Astoria luxury hotel in New York City to make its way to the buzzing new gourmet caf‚, On the Thirty, in Los Angeles. "The Waldorphian" on the menu at On the Thirty transformed during its journey and shows that tweaking the Waldorf may just be a good strategy as an Easter selection: for brunch, dinner or even dessert.

The original deal, usually served on a bed of lettuce, was struck in 1890 at the hotel and at first included only apples, celery and mayonnaise. Over the years, chopped walnuts were used. As time passed, imitators usually didn't go further than adding golden raisins or substituting yogurt or plain sour cream for the mayonnaise.

Recently, though, interesting takes have cropped up; some are just perfect additions for the Easter meal.

The Waldorphian includes grilled chicken (though grilled lamb could be substituted), celery, herbed goat cheese, apples and dried cranberries. It's tossed with a honey-Dijon vinaigrette. If you decide on this medley, the Cooking Channel has an excellent version of the dressing (http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/kelsey-nixon/honey-dijon-vinaigrette.html), which is good as is, or you can add a little mayonnaise or sour cream to hark back slightly more to the original creamy salad dressing.

AllRecipes.com features a wonderful tuna Waldorf that would draw interest at a brunch. Mix your drained oil-packed canned tuna with chopped shallots, diced Granny Smith apples, chopped celery, chopped walnuts, sweet pickle relish, salt and pepper, curry powder and mayonnaise. Serve on toasted croissants that you drape with butter lettuce leaves and slices of Swiss cheese before adding scoops of the salad.

When accomplished chefs jump into the mix, seasonal ingredients often become part of the package and make the dishes even more appealing as part of Easter festivities. Rachael Ray's interesting take on the Waldorf below includes fresh dill and award-winning gourmet restaurant dessert chef Gale Gand features shredded fresh mint in this memorable meal-ender that she serves on cinnamon-raisin toast:

DESSERT MINT WALDORF SALAD WITH CINNAMON-RAISIN BREAD

1/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup sour cream

Pinch salt

1 sweet red apple (do not peel), cored and diced

1 tart green apple (do not peel), cored and diced

1/4 cup fennel, diced

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

2 leaves fresh mint, shredded

1/4 cup Roquefort cheese, crumbled

4 slices cinnamon-raisin bread

Yields 4 servings.

Put 4 serving plates in the refrigerator to chill.

In a large bowl, whisk the apple juice concentrate, lemon juice, sour cream and salt. Add the apples, fennel, raisins, walnuts, mint and Roquefort and toss gently just until combined. Divide on serving plates. Just before serving, toast the bread and cut each slice diagonally into quarters. Arrange around the salads and serve immediately. —"Butter Sugar Flour Eggs" by Chef Gale Gand

DILL-DIJON WALDORF SALAD

1 cup whole walnut halves

1 heart celery with greens, wiped clean and chopped

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup red seedless grapes, split

2 Gala apples, seeded and chopped

1 lemon, juiced

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 to 3 tablespoons cream

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 head Bibb lettuce or butter lettuce

Yields 4 servings.

Toast nuts in a small skillet over moderate heat until aroma develops and nuts crisp a bit, 5 to 6 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Combine walnuts, celery, onion, grapes and apples in a medium bowl. Whisk lemon juice, honey, vinegar, cardamom, dill and mustard, and then whisk in extra-virgin olive oil in a slow stream. When oil becomes incorporated, stream in cream, then season the dressing with salt and pepper.

Dress salad and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Use two large lettuce leaves per serving to form a bed for the salad. —Chef Rachael Ray "30 Minute Meals" TV series —Photo courtesy of FoodNetwork.com

Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." She also writes the Creators News Service "Cooks' Books" column. To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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