And two boffo dressings, just because we all need the extra love
IN OUR OWN SMALL, SNEAKY, HIGHLY INCONSEQUENTIAL WAY, we’re rebels here in the Department of Salad. Especially lately. If you tell me or one of the boys in the lab that the sky is robin’s egg blue we might point out that it’s technically azure. Just to feel like we have a shred of power left in a world we no longer understand.
I’m the gang leader. Flying a contrarian flag is a meek gesture that makes me feel just a little better than, say, slamming my hand in the car door. So when I read that there’s only one way to make a Greek salad recently, I spent days trying to come up with one that I like as much as I do the traditional Greek salad. That’s the best I can do right now.
As was stated here very early on, in issue #2, by our resident Greek authority Mary Norris, “you don’t really need a recipe for a Greek salad.” It is my position that this implies I can do anything I like. Not that I need anyone’s permission. Get out of my way.
Is the highly delicious salad I came up with better than the original Greek salad? No—nor is it trying to be. But that’s not even the point. (The point, sort of, is that I have the right to cull Greek flavors I cherish, resynthesize them slightly, and call it Greek salad, even if it does not strictly hew to some law laid down by a Greek dude hundreds of years ago. But since this salad newsletter crosses state lines and I’m afraid I’ll get arrested we’ll call it Greekish Salad, okay?)
While the boys in the lab and I have been getting organized, I’ve been trying to stay as busy as possible, so I decided to also give creamy Italian salad dressing a redefinition it neither needed nor asked for.
It takes two kinds of lettuce (🥬 + $$) to keep the Department of Salad alive. The best way to support us: Punch the green button.
People love this dressing, and a few of you have asked for a recipe. I like it but it’s almost never my first choice. And let’s face it: It’s not remotely Italian. Neither is the Italian dressing so many of us buy in bottles or order in restaurants without wondering what a true Italian might like on their salad. (Which, as the Italian cooking teacher and cookbook author Domenica Marchetti pointed out when she was a guest in the DOS, is neither of these dressings but simple oil and vinegar, at the table.)
But I remember liking it very much in the early 1980s, when the chef at the vegetarian cafe I worked in during college (the long-gone much-loved Bluebird Cafe in Athens, GA) served it drizzled over anything green and leafy that left the kitchen; she also used it to add a bit of richness to egg salad sandwiches. Creamy Italian was everywhere back then! (I imagine it was considered very modern, like women’s rights.)
But today when I try it in restaurants or in some recipe, I find it too sharp, which flies in the face making a creamy dressing in the first place, doesn’t it? So my version is rich but light, rather than taste-bud rattling. You might not even consider it creamy Italian dressing, but it is. Simply because I say so.
And finally, I have a pretty stunning Green Goddess dressing recipe for you, that I devised because I thought we all might find it soothing right now. It’s a tiny thing.
I based it partly on my own Convertible Green Goddess, and when I tasted it I walked around my kitchen saying over and over to myself, Oh, wow, man. Wow. As if I were a feminist from the 1970s, after Roe v. Wade was first handed down, back when the world was young. And full of hope.
*RECIPE: DOS Greek(ish) Salad
1/4 cup ricotta (my favorite is Calabro)
1/2 cup plain full-fat yogurt
1/3 cup crumbled feta (don’t buy it crumbled; buy a solid chunk and crumble it yourself)
Juice and zest from half a lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 to 1 pound of tomatoes (about 4 medium-large), cut into bite size chunks
1 clove garlic, grated
Pinch of red pepper flakes
6-8 large basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
Flaky sea salt and pepper
1 big English cucumber, quartered lengthwise, seeds removed, and cut into chunks (you only need to peel it if it’s bitter; taste it)
1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded, trimmed, and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 big handful assorted herbs, torn (I had mint and dill at my house; it was delicious)
In a mini food processor or bullet blender, combine the ricotta, yogurt, feta, lemon zest, and one tablespoon of the olive oil and process until smooth. Season with a bit of salt and set aside or refrigerate.
Place the tomatoes in a big bowl with the garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, capers, remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the lemon juice. Give it a gentle stir, season with salt and pepper, and set aside for at least 10 minutes.
To serve, spread a thick layer of the ricotta-feta-yogurt mixture on a large serving platter (or several smaller plates). Top attractively with the tomato mixture, then pile on the cucumber chunks, red bell pepper cubes, and tiny diced red onion in a lovely jumble. Decorate generously with torn herbs. Finish with flaky sea salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired. Optional: Serve with black olives on the side or chopped and sprinkled on top. I used kalamatas, sparingly.
*RECIPE: Emily’s Not Even Remotely Italian Creamy Italian Salad Dressing
Makes about 1 cup
This might seem like a lot of different ingredients with similar flavors—meaning the buttermilk and the sour cream along with the mayo—but trust me, the balance turns out just right. A lot of people like to put a tablespoon or so of finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino in their Creamy I, as we called it at the Bluebird Cafe. I do not, but you are free to do so—at least for now. Who knows?
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I like Duke’s, but you know that)
2 tablespoons full-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, grated
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch dried basil
Freshly ground black pepper
Optional: 1 tablespoon chopped chives (more or less to taste; I love them and use a lot)
Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. Taste; adjust seasonings. Refrigerate until ready to use.
*RECIPE: DOS Avocado Green Goddess Dressing
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Part of the reason I love this dressing so much, aside from the fact that it blew my socks off, is that it’s a great way to curb avocado loss. In case you didn’t know: Once an avocado gets ripe or almost ripe, if you pop it in the fridge it will hold in that state for several more days. A cold ripe avocado is perfect for this recipe, which keeps its bright green color beautifully days after you mix it up.
I based mine on my own green goddess dip, and I will warn you that neither recipe is the same without tarragon. The other herbs are more flexible (I used basil, parsley, and chives; mint and dill would also be good), but if you can’t find tarragon it won’t be the same. This dressing is the perfect accompaniment for a steamed artichoke.
1 large ripe avocado
1 clove garlic, trimmed and peeled
1 heaping tablespoon chopped tarragon
2 tablespoon chopped basil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup plain whole-milk yogurt
Pinch of salt
Dab of hot sauce
In the bowl of a food processor (I used my mini; it was just right), place all the ingredients except the mayonnaise, yogurt, salt, and hot sauce and process. Add the remaining ingredients and process again until smooth. Adjust salt and lemon, if necessary. Store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. If it begins to brown, you can top with a layer of lemon juice (pour it off before using). And not to brag, but mine stayed bright green and beautiful. If you want to thin this dressing, just blend in a tablespoon or two of water.
🥬 🥬🥬 🥬That’s It! We’re done here! Thanks for subscribing. We’ll see you next week with a recipe for Turducken. I’m kidding—it’s going to be salad!
🥬🥬🥬 OH, BUT ONE MORE THING We’ve gotten a start on PRINTABLE RECIPES! You’ll find downloadable PDF files (SEE THEM? ABOVE?) that we’ve begun adding at the end of each recipe; we’re working backward, until we have them all done. CONFUSED? Check the archive if you lose track of your e-mailed newsletter.
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