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Salad Days

Salad Days

Seven-Layer Salad (A Classic Updated)

May 27, 2018

A thing is the sum of its parts. If the parts are crap…well then. But if the parts are stellar the whole can be a beautiful thing. Take Seven Layer Salad for example. A somewhat maligned American creation of the 1950s borne out of someone’s need for “quick, tasty and feeds-a-crowd,” the salad has popped up at picnics, on home buffets and at community dinners ever since. Classically, it’s built in a glass dish (like the trifle dish you got at your bridal shower but never used) and includes layers of chopped lettuce, tomato, hard-cooked egg, cucumber, sharp cheddar cheese, bacon, green onion,  a thick mayo-sourcream dressing and (my favorite part!) lots and lots of sweet peas. The recipe’s provenance is thought to be Southern, but it doesn’t appear in my regional cooking tomes (Clementine Paddleford, Helen Corbitt, etc.) just community cookbooks where it was initially referred to as “Seven Layer Pea Salad.”

Which brings us back to peas. I’ve always loved the “green” scent of them, their looks, their shape, their shoots, tendrils, flowers, how they “pop” when you bite ‘em.  But there are so few recipes that really let peas shine: not overcooked, not mushy, not blended into oblivion in a soup. In this salad, they get to be their best. When your farmers market comes in with fresh ones, use those lightly steamed and cooled. (Otherwise, frozen/thawed will work.) As far as the other layers are concerned? There are so many fine examples of good sharp cheddar cheese and uncured hardwood smoked bacon, choose those. And experiment a little! Milky white goat-milk cheddar is delicious, and super-aged 10 year cheddars are amazing. Continue Reading…

Salad Days

Brown Derby Cobb Salad

April 2, 2018

From Hollywood’s Brown Derby restaurant and named for its owner, Robert Howard Cobb, the Cobb Salad is the original chopped salad. A mix of finely chopped watercress, curly endive, Romaine and iceberg lettuces topped with crisp bacon, hard boiled egg, tomato, chive, chicken breast, Roquefort cheese and avocado, the original was served with a house-made “French” dressing that was more akin to red wine vinaigrette than the sweet orange goo labeled “French” on a salad bar.  Continue Reading…

Salad Days

Quinoa Roast Potato & Caramelized Onion Bowl with Arugula & Tahini Lemon Dressing

January 25, 2018

January being a time of new beginnings, it’s not surprising I’ve heard from readers and friends searching for the healthy recipes they once saved but now lost : ) I told them what I’m telling you: Keep it simple and feel free to experiment! Some of my favorite daily put-togethers are salads that combine the varied textures and tastes of hot & cold ingredients, and, that don’t weigh you down with too much meat or fat. Which brings me to this bowl. A mix of peppery baby arugula, with the mellow smoothness of oven roast potato, onion and garlic, and crisp-oven “fried” brussels sprout petals on top, this dish also stars red quinoa which is gluten-free, and the only plant-based protein to have all nine essential amino acids. Pulling it all together? A drizzle of paprika-spiked tahini-lemon dressing. This bowl works very well at lunch. To make that easy-doable, prepare the quinoa & roasted veg the night before and then microwave quick-heat those ingredients when you toss the salad together next day. Continue Reading…

Salad Days

Waldorf Salad

May 30, 2017

Recipe provenance is a wily thing. Who combined (insert your list) ingredients to make (insert your dish) first? Definitive answers to almost any version of that question elude, but it is possible to track down the first time a recipe was published. And that, friends, is where the credits come in. Waldorf Salad is a fun example. The recipe for Waldorf Salad was first published in 1896 by The Saalfield Publishing Co. of Chicago, Akron and New York in a 907-page tome written by Oscar Tschirky, famed maître d’hotel at The Waldorf Hotel from 1893 to 1943.  Tschirky wasn’t a chef, but he had very good taste and a shrewd understanding of what guests liked. He’s also credited with being the first to menu eggs Benedict and veal Oscar among other classic hotel dishes. Continue Reading…