Omar Khayyam’s Spinach Salad

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Simple is best, especially if you’ve got fresh-from-the-garden (or farmers market) greens and tomatoes. Here’s a signature salad and dressing from long-gone Omar Khayyam’s San Francisco, that takes that approach, plus a little history: Restaurateur George Mardikian had a dramatic youth. After his father died during the Armenian genocide, 15-year-old Mardikian was imprisioned in a Turkish camp. He escaped seven years later, came to America, and eventually opened a lunch counter in Fresno, Calif. Mardikian moved his business into several, subsequently larger locations—all named Omar Khayyam’s in honor of the Persian poet– before finally opening the plush, final version of the operation at 200 Powell St. in San Francisco. The food he served wasn’t strictly Armenian, but rather, a mix of Middle Eastern, African and European food, made accessible to American palates. This simple spinach salad and zesty dressing, once featured in the January, 1962 issue of now-sadly-defunct Gourmet magazine, is a good example.

Makes 4 to 6

salad Ingredients

  • 2 lbs baby spinach leaves
  • Canola or your choice of light oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Asparagus tips
  • Tomato wedges
  • 2 finely-chopped hard-cooked eggs

Salad Dressing Ingredients

  • Garlic clove
  • 2 uncooked eggs (use equivalent of pasteurized eggs for safety)
  • ½ cup tomato ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp dry mustard
  • 2 cups salad oil
  • ½ cup vinegar

Instructions

  1. Pick over spinach and discard any stems. Season lightly with oil and lemon juice and chill on individual serving plates, or, on one large platter. At serving time, garnish each plate (or the platter) with asparagus tips, tomato wedges and eggs. Serve with sauceboat of salad dressing.
  2. Make dressing: Rub mixing bowl with cut garlic clove. Discard clove. In bowl, combine raw eggs, ketchup, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, paprika and mustard powder. Beat to a smooth paste with a rotary beater. Slowly add salad oil alternately with vinegar. Continue to beat until thick and slowly beat in 2/3 cup tepid water. Serve in a sauce boat with composed salads.

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