A GUIDEPOST Reprint
SALADS: LET US BURY THE MYTH
by Betty Sode
22 July 1988
The time has come to give that perennial stepchild of every meal, the Green Salas, a long hard look and some serious re-thinking. Salad should serve as a stimulant to appetite and a refresher in the Meal; when it becomes a mere decorative accessory in a class with parsley garnish, it is time to reconsider its positive contribution to the pleasures of the table. Summer cooking has a tendency to slide downhill at best. No wonder, with heat-diminished appetites on many days, and the not unreasonable reluctance of the cook to abandon the swimming pool and plunge into a sweltering kitchen. All the more reason to be sure that a simple, easily prepared green salad remains at its maximum best.
Now there is nothing intrinsically wrong with plain local lettuce tossed around with ordinary oil and vinegar and finished off with a sprinkle of salt and a grind of pepper. A plain lettuce salad is not merely not bad – it is definitely very good (always assuming it has been properly prepared with good ingredients). Remember that the local lettuce here is garden or leaf lettuce back home, and you made long, early-morning trips to a Farmer’s Market to find it. And that ordinary oil and vinegar on your kitchen shelf here are the same priceless GENUINE IMPORTED SPANISH OLIVE OIL and IMPORTED EUROPEAN WINE VINEGAR you found on the Gourmet shelf of the store! But even with this cherring thought, the lettuce salad as a regular daily item definitely palls.
The most obvious solution is to vary the ingredients. Unfortunately, that long green mile in the American supermarket where Bibb lettuce, escarole, romaine, Boston Lettuce, endive, Pascal celery, Iceberg lettuce and a dozen other greens extended themselves for your selection is not a feature of the local mercado nor likely to become so. However, with a little searching, one can begin to locate at least three additional greens around Madrid which will add considerable verve to your salad bowl – curly endive or chicory, Belgian or French endive, and watercress (berro). Any one of these pays substantial dividends in color, texture, and flavor, and, since they are all rather strongly flavored, they are better combined with blander leaf lettuce than used alone.
Like all salad greens, these three should be thoroughly washed to remove any sand, grit, or other unexpected foreign matter not specifically included in your list of salas ingredients. Watercress in particular should be soaked for at least a half-hour before being used, and you will probably want to discard the tougher stems. The endive may be separated into leaves, or sliced. Yes, sliced. Let’s officially bury that old myth about never cutting salad greens. The idea was merely to avoid cut edges which might turn brown on prolonged exposure to air. As no self-respecting salad eater is going to eat greens that have been standing around that long anyhow, it’s a Tabu just as well forgotten.
Your well-washed salad greens should be equally well-dried. Careful now, you don’t want to bruise those tender leaved either. Wrap them in an old tea towel, or paper towels if you are lucky enough ti have them around, and crisp the greens in the refrigerator for a while. A good habit – which works wonders though I have never understood why – is to dribble a small amount of olive oil over the greens when they go into the salad bowl. Let them stand that way in the refrigerator again until you are ready to complete the dressing and serve the salad. This has the added advantage of properly, and you end up with your delicious salad dressing in the bottom of the bowl where it does no one much good!
However, the local supply of variants is admittedly limited, and we are soon back at the original problem of monotony in the salad course. The remaining solution, of course, is to vary the Dressing. In this land of multiple Roman reminders, the classic of classics from the salad world that immediately comes to mind is a
1 cup cubed day-old French bread; 2 tbsp. garlic oil; 2 heads dark green lettuce or romaine; 1 ½ tsp. salt; ¼ to ½ tsp. dry mustard; black pepper; 3-4 tbsp. wine vinegar; 8-10 tbsp. olive oil; 1 egg (coddled one minute in hot water); grated Parmesan cheese; chopped anchovy fillets, 1 tbsp. lemon juice (optional).
Toast bread cubes and place ina a flat bowl. Pour over garlic oil (olive oil with several garlic cloves steeped in it). Cut or tear salad greens and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle salt, mustard, and generous amount of freshly ground pepper over the greens. Add olive oil and toss. Add vinegar. Add egg which has simmered 1 minute, or beat a raw egg and add it. Add croutons and Parmesan cheese and toss well. Eat immediately.
I can confidently say that over the years I have eaten my weight in Caesar salads (which hail from California, not Rome alas), and that is generous amount of lettuce, believe me. I have never eaten a one without being assured that this was the one-and-only original Caesar Salad. Be that as it may, they were about equally delicious. The recipe given above has no more authority than sheer weight behind it – it comes from a near-300 lb. cousin who presides over his Caesar Salad preparation as though it were a sacrament! Somehow , this is a salad that men always take over with relish. And since it is a natural accompaniment for barbecued meat, all the more reason to surrender gracefully and retire to the sidelines while the Man of the House officiates.
Despite its feminine name, Green Goddess Salad is almost an equal favorite with the men, in consumption if not preparation. Actually, this should come as no surprise because it was originated for a man / George Arliss, the actor. He was in the habit of eating regularly at the old Palace Hotel in San francisco while appearing in the otherwise forgotten drama “The Green Goddess” and this salad dressing was concocted in his honor.
GREEN GODDESS SALAD
1 cup mayonnaise; ½ cup sour cream; 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar (tarragon flavored if possible); 1 tbsp. lemon juice; 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley; 3 tbsp. finely chopped onion; 3 tbsp. mashed anchovy fillets; 1 small clove garlic, minced; 1 tbsp. chopped chives, if available; ½ tsp. salt; 1/4 tsp. pepper; mixed salad greens.
Combine all ingredients for dressing and beat or shake well. Cover tightly and chill 3-4 hours or overnight. Shake thoroyghly before pouring lavishly over mixed salad greens.
A favorite green salad from the east Coast is that originally served at the famous restaurant in New York, Delmonico’s.
2 heads lettuce; ½ cup olive oil; 3 tbsp. wine vinegar; 3 tbsp. sweet cream; 3 tbsp. roquefort cheese, crumbled; pepper; dash of Tabasco; 1 hard cooked egg, chopped; 2 slices crisp fried bacon, crumbled. Combine olive oil, vinegar, cream and Roquefort in a small bowl.
Beat until smooth and well blended. Add pepper and Tabasco, and stir in egg and bacon. Arrange washed, dried and crisped lettuce in a bowl and pour dressing over. Toss and serve immediately.
One last green salad which should be nominated for inclusion with the foregoing “classics” is the fresh green spinach salad prepared in old Virginia and Maryland homes. You will have to begin with a small truckload of spinach to pick over and discard all but the tender, young leaves, but it is worth the trouble.
Fresh, uncooked spinach leaves; 1 ½ tbsp. any salad oil; 1 ½ tbsp. lemon juice; 2 hard-cooked eggs; 1 raw egg, beaten; ¼ cup Ketchup; 1 ½ tsp. sugar; ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce; ½ tsp. salt; ½ tsp. paprika; ½ tsp. dry mustard; 1 cup any salad oil; 1-2 tbsp. Cider vinegar; 2 tbsp lemon juice; 2 ½ tbsp. warm water.
Wash, pick-over, and tear up young spinach leaves. Sprinkle and toss with oil and lemon juice. Chill. Chop eggs finely and set aside. Mix together raw egg, ketchup, sugar, Worcestershire, salt, paprika, and mustard. Mix Cider vinegar and lemon juice. Add oil and vinegar mixture alternately in small amounts, beating constantly. Add water vlast, slowly, beating steadily. Sprinkle chopped eggs over spinach. Toss lightly. Pour a little dressing over and toss together. Serve remaining dressing separately.
Featured image/Krista, CC BY2.0
BonOlivo olive oil virgin extra/Maximiliano gonzalez porfiri, CC BY-SA4.0
Endives/Daniel Persson, CC BY2.0
Ceasar Salad/Marie, CC BY-SA2.0, cropped
Delmonico, SashiBellamkonda, CC BY2.0
Green Goddess Salad/Jules, CC BY2.0
Spinach Saladd/Mona El Falaky from Pixabay
Cooking vector/nugroho dwi kartawan from Pixabay
(Note: images illustrating the salads may have additional ingredients other than those mentioned in the recipes.)
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