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With their pleasant crunch and creamy nut flavor, walnuts make an agreeable addition to many types of salad. In fact, walnuts can be added to almost any kind of salad, but they are most often found in those featuring other ingredients with flavors which complement that of the walnut. Among the most popular kinds of walnut salad are those which include strongly flavored fresh or dried fruits, greens, and cheeses, as well as the celery, fruit, walnut, and mayonnaise combination known as the Waldorf salad. Sometimes, the taste of a walnut salad is enhanced by adding a sweet or spicy seasoning to the nuts.
Many cooks seek to construct a walnut salad around a principle of contrasting flavors and textures. As walnuts have a mild, creamy flavor and a crunchy bite, they tend to work well with strong flavors, and also pair well with soft or chewy ingredients. Thus, a walnut salad commonly features a strongly flavored green, such as spinach or arugula, as well as a rich, robust cheese like gorgonzola or pecorino. They also combine well with certain fruits, such as tart, chewy dried cranberries or cherries, or subtly tangy fresh apples or pears.
Throughout the 20th century, the dish known as the Waldorf salad was one of the most popular types of walnut salad in the US. This salad, invented at New York’s Waldorf Hotel in the late 19th century, usually consists of celery, fruit such as apples or grapes, walnuts, and mayonnaise. As the public became increasingly health-conscious in the late 20th century, however, the high fat content of this dish caused it to lose popularity. Some cooks have attempted to improve the nutritional profile of the Waldorf salad by substituting the dish’s mayonnaise for low-fat dressing or yogurt.
Sometimes, the taste of a walnut salad is enhanced by adding seasoning to the nuts. For instance, some salad recipes call for candied walnuts, or nuts which have been coated in sugar syrup as well as seasonings like cinnamon and vanilla and then baked until a crispy glaze has formed. Sweetening walnuts in this way can heighten the flavor contrast between the nuts and savory ingredients like cheese or tangy dressings such as vinaigrettes. In other cases, walnuts may be enhanced with spicy seasoning. For instance, the nuts may be dipped in beaten egg, tossed with spices like cayenne pepper and paprika, and then baked until a crunchy coating has developed.
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