Would you think I was weird if I told you I often crave salad? I do and no, I'm not weird. Not really anyway. We have some kind of salad 4-5 nights a week. Cooking for my clients has really improved my salad repetoire. Left to my own devices, we would probably eat the same one over and over with little variations. Greens, tomatoes, mushrooms, avacado are the must-haves; pea sprouts, chick peas, hearts of palm, and olives are the variables. But since I need to be more creative on food delivery days, I have really delved into my salad recipes and have probably made over 100 different ones in the last two years.
I find I most often crave salad after coming back from vacation. I know everyone eats less healthily when they are away from home, but I think it's even more true for vegetarians. Unless you are traveling in large cities (and even then sometimes), your options in restaurants tend to be starch, starch, and more starch, and if there is a vegetable, it is covered in cheese or butter, or both. Even salads are so heavily dressed and rich that I find myself longing for my own little healthy and flavorful salad and a mass of steamed broccoli. If this sounds annoying, like I am healthier than thou, please know that if I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, it would be french fries. No question.
Last night I made a new salad that included a new dressing - Green Goddess. I have actually made Green Goddess before but always with prepared mayonnaise and this recipe had you make it from scratch. Sounds daunting I know, but all it really takes is a little patience and elbow grease. Want a good arm workout? Make your own mayonnaise! This was the base of the dressing. From there you blend a bunch of delicious herbs with some lemon juice, garlic, and grapeseed oil and mix it with the mayonnaise. What you get is a brilliant green, creamy, verdant dressing that is delicious with the salad, but would also be great on a sandwich or as a dip for vegetables. I didn't try it with pre-made mayo, but I'm sure it would still be great. I also think you could easily substitute olive oil for the grapeseed.
While on the subject of salads, I thought I would also share one of my favorites - a Greek Salad. This is always delicious but especially so in the summer where the cold and crunch of it is so welcome. It is hearty enough for dinner - especially if you serve it with pita bread and an assortment of dips. Greek salad is one of the few things that I make where I don't use a recipe and I encourage you to play around with it too. Love feta cheese? Add double amount I suggest. Don't love feta cheese? Add less. You see where this is going. If I happen to have an extra red pepper around, I will throw that in, and sometimes I add romaine lettuce to the mix to make it more substantial. When I served this the other night, I made a vinaigrette with lots of oregano from my garden, but usually I just drizzle it with olive oil and either lemon or red wine vinegar. Don't be tempted to use Balsamic here, it will discolor the salad.
Green Goddess Salad with Romaine, Cucumbers, and Avacado
Sunday Suppers at Lucques
This is the original recipe from the book. Notice that it calls for anchovies which I did not use to no ill effect. If you are a hairy fish eater, by all means -use them! I also used a large egg yolk and it was fine.
2 large heads romaine lettuce
1 extra-large egg yolk
1 cup grapeseed oil
1 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup packed watercress, cleaned, tough stems removed
2 tbsp. tarragon leaves
3 tbsp. minced chives, plus 2 tbsp. 1/2 inch snipped chives
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 salt-packed anchovies, rinsed, bones removed
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. champagne vinegar
2 large ripe avacados
3 Persian cucumbers or 1 hothouse cucumber
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Remove the tough outer leaves of the romaine. Trim the root and core and separate the leaves. Tear the larger leaves in half. Clean by submerging in cold water. Spin dry, and chill in the refrigerator.
Place the egg yolk in a stainless steel bowl. Slowly pour 1/4 cup of the oil in the bowl, drop by drop, whisking all the time. Continue in this manner as the mixture thickens. Once the mayonnaise has emulsified, whisk in another 1/4 cup of oil in a slow steady stream.
Puree 1 cup parsley leaves, the watercress, tarragon, and minced chives in a blender with the garlic, anchovies, lemon juice, and remaining 1/2 cup oil.*
Whisk the herb puree, vinegar, 2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper into the mayonnaise. If the dressign seems too thick, thin it with a little water. Taste for balance and seasoning.
Cut each avacado in half lenghtwise, remove the pit, and peel. Slice into long wedges. Taste the cucumbers and peel and seed them if necessary. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, and cut them on the diagonal into 1/4 inch thick slices. Season the avacado and cucumber generously with salt and pepper.
Place the romaine in a large salad bowl, and toss with 1 cup dressing, 1/4 tsp. salt, and some more black pepper. Gently toss in the avacado and cucumber. Arrange on a large chilled platter, and scatter the remaining 1/4 cup parsley leaves and the snipped chives over the top.
*I found it hard to get the herbs to puree in my blender with only the juice from the lemon. I added enough water to get it all going and then didn't need to add water later.
English cucumbers are the kind that are shrink-wrapped plastic. I like them because you don't have to peel them or seed them and the color of the peel is striking in this salad. If you can't find them, use a regular cucumber and if you want to leave the peel on, just wash it well. Do seed it because otherwise the salad will be too watery.
1 English cucumber
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
4 oz. good feta cheese, cut into small cubes, or crumbled
1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano (optional)
Lemon juice or red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Cut the cucumber in half and seed if necessary. Slice each half into three pieces and then cut cross-wise into 1 inch chunks. Place in a large bowl. Cut the tomatoes in half and add to the cucumbers along with the cheese and the oregano, if using. Mix gently, then add a generous drizzle of both the olive oil and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.