We have been remiss. May is National Salad Month.
May is also: National Barbecue Month, National Hamburger Month, and National Strawberry Month which will all be timely along about Memorial Day Weekend. And Memorial Day is when I ceremoniously hand the cooking duties over to Mr. Friday, and I walk away from the hot kitchen.
I will still be available for making salads, though. I don’t mind puttering around the kitchen as long as the oven isn’t turned on. I can easily whip up a batch of silky vinaigrette dressing, or make a chunky Caesar salad. It almost doesn’t count when I have to bring a pot of water to a steamy roiling boil if I know I can sit outside in a little while and eat a cool, creamy potato salad. And in the summer I will cook an industrial-sized cookie sheet of bacon early in the morning so I can have bacon for another masterful vinaigrette, and use the bacon fat for crouton. Yumsters. The exceptions to the rules are few. I intend to enjoy my summer salad season.
Our Favorite Caesar Salad Dressing:
This recipe has evolved from one I found in Esquire magazine back in 1981 or 1982, when we were first married and figuring out how to cook for ourselves. We eliminated the traditional anchovies because Esquire assured us anchovies were only included as an ingredient because they is in Worcestershire sauce. Which was excellent and reassuring news. We gradually eliminated the similarly traditional gloppy raw egg, thinking that the tasty bacon fat used for cooking the crouton was deeply satisfying. Otherwise, it is common sense and what we have in the fridge.
Our Caesar Salad
1 head of Romaine lettuce, washed and torn (not cut) into bite-size pieces
1 cup cubed, tasty, firm bread
¼ cup bacon fat
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
¼ cup excellent extra virgin olive oil – use whatever 60 Minutes says is good https://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-overtime-how-to-buy-olive-oil/
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 lemon, halved, with the seeds removed
1 splash Worcestershire sauce
½ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon thyme
Heat the bacon fat in a small frying pan, add the crushed garlic clove and toss the bread cubes in the hot fat until bread is brown and crunchy. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and thyme.
Put the lettuce in a bowl (we like to use a large, shallow wooden bowl), and drizzle with some olive oil. Toss the lettuce well, in a bold, jolly fashion, adding squirts of lemon juice and a dash or two of Worcestershire and coat the leaves well. Add the Parmesan cheese and toss briskly. Put on plates, or in shallow bowls, add the crouton if there are any left. (Generally our kitchen help tests the crouton and we have very few to add to the salads. Thus the serving for two.) Enjoy! Any wine will do.
Our Favorite Potato Salad
2 pounds little new, red potatoes
1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise thinned with milk
1 bunch green onions, chopped
Maldon salt, and some black pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes until tender. While warm (but not still steaming hot – I have melted my fingerprints slicing hot potatoes too early and my life of crime may start any minute now) slice potatoes and begin to layer them in a large bowl – one layer potatoes then a handful of green onions and salt and pepper. Pour on some of the mayonnaise mixture. Repeat. Gently stir until all the potatoes are coated. You may need to add more mayonnaise mixture when you are ready to serve, as the potatoes absorb the liquid.
Easy Peasy Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons prepared mustard (Dijon, if you have it)
2 tablespoons good vinegar (I like red wine, of course)
1 clove of garlic, minced evenly
6 tablespoons olive oil
Add all ingredients to a Mason jar, cover, and shake until the dressing is thick and creamy. Save whatever’s left in the jar for your next salad (it’s even better the next day).
The Bare Minimum Cucumber Salad – for days when you can barely stagger into the kitchen.
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1/4 cup dill springs
1 English cucumber, sliced
For the dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Combine the salad ingredients in one bowl. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in another; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over salad and toss. Add wine and bread, in that order, please.
Here are some helpful hints and variations on the salad dressing theme from Martha and Food52:
Martha’s Bleu Cheese Dressing: https://www.marthastewart.com/355217/blue-cheese-salad-dressing
And her Green Goddess Dressing: https://www.marthastewart.com/336999/green-goddess-dressing
Heart health be damned! Try this Bacon Vinaigrette Salad Dressing from Food52: https://food52.com/recipes/218-bacon-vinaigrette
“Lettuce is like conversation; it must be fresh and crisp, so sparkling that you scarcely notice the bitter in it.”
~Charles Dudley Warner