Russian, French, Green Goddess, Caesar, Thousand Island, Blue cheese and Ranch. It is the latter I wrote about last year. I mentioned then that I would feature other salad dressings in a future column. So, here it is.
A salad without dressing is like a cake without icing, at least that is the case with me.
As I’ve observed the shelves in the supermarket, I noticed the varieties of prepared salad dressings has diminished. Perhaps it is because people realize it is quite simple to make dressing from scratch.
Researching the topic, I found:
The first store-bought salad dressings were packaged in wooden jars.
The Babylonians used oil and vinegar for dressing greens nearly 2,000 years ago.
Refrigerator dressings found in the produce section are growing faster than the rate of shelf-stable dressings, according to research company Nielsen.
The original Caesar salad dressing recipe did not contain pieces of anchovy; the slight anchovy flavor comes from the Worcestershire sauce, one of the ingredients. Caesar Cardini, the original creator of the salad, was opposed to using anchovies in his salad.
According to an article in the Washington Post: “Russian dressing was an American-made concoction invented by James E. Colburn of Nashua, N.H. Exactly why he called it “Russian” is not certain: Some say it was because of the caviar, while others say it’s because the dressing was designed to top a Russian-inspired salad known as Salad Olivier.” The article also mentions Thousand Island dressing and its beginnings: “Thousand Island traces its roots to (and is named for) the region between northern New York state and southern Ontario, Canada. While some hotel chefs in Manhattan and Chicago claimed to be the originators, there is evidence that the wife of a fishing guide in Clayton, N.Y., Sophia LaLonde, was the first to make the dressing in the early 1900s. It quickly became a popular offering at inns and hotels in both the Thousand Islands region and in major cities.”
Green Goddess dressing was created at Palace Hotel in San Francisco in the 1920s for actor George Arliss, who stayed there while performing in the play, “The Green Goddess.”
So, what is the most popular salad dressing? According to a study by The Association for Dressings and Sauces, Ranch is the most popular dressing in the U.S. Also in the top five are Italian, Blue cheese, Thousand Island and Caesar.
My go-to book for making salad dressings is an older title, “Well Dressed,” by Jeff Keys (2011, Gibbs-Smith, $16.99). It might be out of print, but many copies are available online.
His newer title, added to my collection, is, “Seventy-Five Homemade Salad Dressings” (2015, Gibbs-Smith, $14.99). It is a redesign of his first book with many new recipes.
The Vintage Restaurant in Sun Valley, Idaho, owned by Keys, is where he whisks up dressings year-round using seasonal ingredients. He writes, “Dressings can transport you through every season and carry you to far-off places and cultures through their many diverse ingredients and surprising combinations of color, texture, flavor and temperature.” Colorful illustrations by Sara Brenton in the newer book capture the essence of the recipes better than a photograph of the dressing.
Chapter one includes vinaigrettes, such as fire-roasted green chili; sesame mint; warm celeriac and lemon; fresh basil and Parmesan; fresh blueberry and orange; and the recipe on the page excerpted from the book, for mango, sweet onion and fresh thyme.
The chapter on international dressings includes Asian sesame ginger dressing and Spanish spicy orange and cumin dressing.
The chapter with slaw and creamy dressings includes New Orleans slaw dressing; Caribbean slaw dressing; honey-orange dressing for fruit salad; and creamy blue cheese dressing. The mix-in dressings chapter includes tomato ranch dressing, Texas barbecue ranch dressing and creamy wasabi dressing. He concludes the book with “Salad Inspirations,” where Keys talks about salad becoming much more than a course in the meal; it has become the meal itself. Recipes here include Chinese egg noodle salad; arugula, fennel and Italian hard salami bread salad; and asparagus and artichoke heart salad. Convenient are the icons that denote vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and gluten-free optional recipes.
So what is a mix-in dressing? Think “a doctored store-bought dressing.” He writes, “Buy a bottled dressing and then customize it by mixing in added ingredients to enhance the flavor, creating a simple and unique dressing of your own.” How he got this idea is a cute story he shares in the book.
The headnotes give suggestions for using each dressing recipe.
(Reprinted by permission of Gibbs-Smith Publishing)
The headnote says, “This dressing is great for summer pasta salads. Pour it over penne, olives, tomatoes and fresh herbs and you won’t go wrong.”
Mix all of the ingredients, except the oil, in a bowl until well-blended. While whisking, drizzle in the oil. Store in the refrigerator and use within 2 weeks. Makes about 2 cups.
The headnote says, “This dressing works great for cool noodle salads with an Asian accent. Try tossing the dressing with Chinese egg noodles, bean sprouts, baby bok choy, toasted sesame seeds, thinly sliced veggies of your choice, and some barbecued chicken or pork. It’s delicious.”
Add all the ingredients, except the salt, to a food processor and pulse 4 or 5 times until dressing is an even texture. Taste for salt and add as needed. Stays fresh up to a week in the refrigerator. Makes 11/2 cups.
The headnote says, “This recipe idea comes from my great friend and food co-conspirator Candy Durham. Candy has a wonderful feel for food and never fails to come up with great ideas. This is one of her best, ever, and it has stayed in my restaurant repertoire. It is not only a great salad dressing, but also a fabulous dip for veggies and a spread for sandwiches.”
Put all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until thoroughly blended. Tore in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Makes about 4 cups.
The headnote says, “My mom made this dressing every holiday season for her amazing molded fruit-and-nut Jell-O salads. This dressing is the essence of simplicity, so use it like my mom did or as a dressing for a mixed fruit salad.”
In a bowl, dissolve the honey in the orange juice. Mix in the yogurt and orange zest until they are evenly blended. Store covered in the refrigerator and use within 3 days. Makes about 11/4 cups.
Worth Tasting, culinary walking tour of downtown New Haven, July 18, 10:30 a.m., reservations required, 203-415-3519, $68. Enjoy tasty samplings from several of New Haven’s favorites. Tickets at https://bit.ly/2FjiwMP.