I once blogged that store-bought croutons are for suckers. I don’t feel exactly the same way about salad dressing, but pretty close. At least, I always find myself making dressing instead of buying it because depending on what is going in the salad, I feel like experiencing and highlighting different flavors. Also store-bought dressings can have guar gum, xanthan gum, and other things in them that you don’t particularly want to eat — especially since you are being so virtuous and eating salad in the first place.
In summer, I almost always end up juicing a Meyer lemon from the legendary tree and adding it to olive oil and a pinch of Kosher salt. That’s the whole dressing. Chop some raw garlic rather finely and that is the basis for a wonderful Turkish (some might say Greek, but a Turk made it for me), dressing that refreshes you as you are eating it. I don’t tend to cook with garlic so I skip it, but this dressing is still wonderful without it, if you have good quality olive oil and fresh lemon juice from a good lemon.
Now that we are in Northern California’s version of winter (rain, 50 degrees at night, more rain), I am attracted to creamy dressings. In the days of the dinner party (the swinging 1970s) my mother used to make a salad with artichoke hearts and a dressing that was made in the blender from mayonnaise, oil, sour cream and dill. Heartattack artichoke hearts! But so delicious…
I have modified it by using lactose-free low-fat yoghurt instead of the sour cream and skipping the extra oil. For a meat-heavy chef’s salad, I also like a couple of tablespoons of Worcester sauce. Worcester sauce is probably an acquired taste — a bit like A1 steak sauce which I don’t care for. According to this article on About.com (and usually those articles are lousy — this one is weirdly good), Worcester sauce contains anchovies and Tamarind, a cross-polination from Britain’s occupation of India which also gave us HP Sauce (Britain’s favorite “brown” sauce according to the HP website), another Tamarind-based condiment.
Another good reason to keep a bottle of Worcester sauce in the fridge? It never seems to go bad and you can’t make a proper Bloody Mary without it. Sidenote: I just checked the ingredients on the Worcester sauce I have in my fridge (Heinz) and instead of the precious fruit of the Tamarind, it is made with high fructose corn syrup (Or HFC as we derisively call it here in Michael Pollan-country)!!! Next time I am in the store, I will invest in a bottle of Lea & Perrins, the original sauce formulated in Worcester by one Lord Sandys, after he returned homefrom India. Their website says you need it to make cheese on toast if you are British! They age the sauce in barrels and keep the recipe a closely guarded secret. Damn you Heinz!
Pastrami Chef’s Salad with Creamy Worcester Dressing
Lettuce for 2 or 3 people (depending how dressed you like your salad)
1/2 cup plain yoghurt (I use lactose-free)
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Worcester sauce
2 teaspoons dill (fresh or dried — your choice)
2 tablespoons roasted sunflower seeds (if you use salted kind, omit the salt)
A pinch of salt
1/4 pound lean pastrami, cut in strips1/2 cup croutons (go here for my recipe)
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced (3 if you are serving more — one per person)
Mix the liquid ingredients into a dressing in your salad bowl with a fork or whisk. Toss inlettuce and then add croutons, meat, and sunflower seeds. Mix well. Divide onto plates and top each with a sliced egg. Would go nicely with a Bloody Mary.