Making of a Great Salad

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Les Salades Composées

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George's Garden Mesclun Greens

The best salad is not complicated at all, but made with the freshest possible greens and garnishes. Les Salades composées or mixed green salad can be made with from an infinite list, the only consideration is freshness. But you say you bought it fresh. Just because you purchased from the fresh bin at the market does not guarantee the pick date. Consider the source and how far did that head of lettuce travel? 

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George's Garden Sweet and Neat Cherry Tomatoes

Substitute ingredients at will when shopping or picking fresh. 

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George's Garden Snap "Sugar Daddy" Peas

My dad was a Master Gardener, and fresh veggies was always steps away. Here’s inspiration for a salad I prepared today and served from my garden-to-plate in under 5 minutes.

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Chef George's Salad Simples

Salade Simple

Sugar Snap Peas, steam 30 seconds, shock in cold water

Mixed Mesclun Greens

Arugula

Red Kale

Sweet and Neat Cherry Tomatoes

Juice 1/2 lemon

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil 

pinch sea salt + a few sprigs fresh mint leaves

Add lemon juice, olive oil, mint and salt in bowl. Mix well. Add all above ingredients, toss and serve immediately.

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Oscar

In honor of the 90th Academy Awards, it's time to celebrate the Oscars. There will be an estimated 30+ million people watching, entertaining + celebrating the Oscar's this Sunday. But there is another noteworthy Oscar that has been celebrated at many Waldorf parties, and would be welcomed winner in the top food category.

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Oscars Award Banquet, 1940, The Ambassador Hotel

Oscar Tschirky, maître d’hôtel of Delmonico’s Restaurant and the Waldorf Astoria in NYC is known as the creator of such popular classic dishes as Waldorf Salad, Veal Oscar, Eggs Benedict and Thousand Island Dressing. It may just be the name implies thousands of recipes - for this dressing, and rumors abound as to the true creator. I can assure you it was not Kraft or Wish-Bone though. This is the story I believe to be true or Oscar of The Waldorf has the best PR agency ever!

At the turn of the century, self-made multi-millionaire and hotel magnate George C. Boldt, (I have my own Thousand Island story, but it doesn’t involve dressing, so it will have to wait) owner of the New York City's Waldorf Astoria enjoyed vacationing in the 1000 Islands. Mr. Boldt and his wife Louise enjoyed this area of the St. Lawrence River region so much so that George had Boldt Castle built for his wife. Nice guy. He would entertain many wealthy friends and business associates on the island.  

Many times Oscar accompanied Mr. Boldt on his trips to the 1000 Islands and to George Boldt's Castle. On one trip aboard the yacht, Oscar improvised with the ingredients he had aboard the yacht, and concocted the dressing for which the region is now known for around the globe. Afterwards, Mr. Boldt started serving the dressing at his hotels.

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The wide appeal of this dressing has gone far beyond elegant salads served aboard yachts on the St. Lawrence River. Burger joints have topped their meat patties for years with this special sauce - remember that jingle? Then there’s of course my preferred In-N-Out-Burgers, where all burgers come standard with Thousand Island dressing. BTW, a secret menu item called "Animal Style"; fries come with Thousand Island Dressing in addition to grilled onions and melted cheese. But when I hear Thousand Island Dressing I think of a dish with a little more of a classical take; like the topping on a Dungeness Crab or Shrimp Louis. I am sure that would make Oscar smile!  

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Could this be Oscar’s classic Thousand Island Dressing Recipe? It just might be...

Take one cup mayonnaise dressing, mix, with one-half cup whipped cream, add small amount of Tarragon vinegar, one-half teaspoonful of Imperial Sauce, then chop one hard boiled egg, one green pepper, one pimento, one pinch chives, mix well together and squeeze the juice of one lemon before serving. This sauce can be served with any kind of salad."

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Queen of Dressing

A tribute to a mix of green herbs, specifically parsley and chives. Prior to the popularity of ranch dressing, Green Goddess was the queen of dressings, gracing salads worldwide.

Let me get this out of the way first; Seven Seas did not create the original Green Goddess Dressing. It’s earliest roots stem from a classical French cooking cold sauce (dressing) called Sauce Au Vert; created for Louis XIII of France circa 1640. That's just around the time of the legendary Chef Vatel (more on him next week). This cold sauce gained popularity in the 1920’s with help of a theater production by the same name, The Green Goddess, which ran in San Francisco.  

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Basically - all cold sauces are created equal, with just a few adjustments in the ingredients. For example, if you think Thousand island Dressing with a reduction of a few condiments and an addition of a larger quantity of fresh washed herbs; such as chives, tarragon, chervil or parsley - you’ve got Green Goddess!

The herbs should be chopped fine and squeezed dry in a cheese cloth or clean kitchen towel; while reserving the juice exiting from the herbs to color and more importantly flavor the cold sauce. The herbs are then added to the base sauce. Viola!

Green Goddess aka. Sauce Au Vert

Mix, 1 cup olive oil mayonnaise, 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 cup sour cream, 3 pureed anchovy fillets, 4 cloves Caramelized Garlic, juice of half a lemon, dash of hot sauce and fresh ground black pepper. Add 1/4 cup each finely chopped chives and parsley, with squeezed juice into dressing.

All Tossed

I'm inspired to toss up a fresh spring salad. April and May is the time to really enjoy spring greens when they are sweet and at their peak; later in summer the flavors tend to bitter a bit with the heat. Whether you are preparing salad for two or planning your Mother's Day brunch, here are few tips + recipes to make plating up your spring salad even better.

Be sure to do the prep with your delicate spring lettuce; submerge leaves in cold water repeatedly until there is no evidence of soil or sand. Then give those leaves a good spin, so your homemade vinaigrette will easily coat your leaves. Wet leaves repell the dressing.

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Good Stuff Pick - OXO Salad Spinner

George's Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

Makes 2 1/2 cups | Know Your Fire Cookbook

1 TB dried chives

1 tsp dried parsley

1 tsp capers or chopped green olives

1/2 tsp lite soy sauce

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, Gorgonzola, Roquefort or Stilton

1 recipe Basic Vinaigette (recipe to follow)

Combine the chives, parsley,capers or olives, and lite soy sauce with the cream and half the cheese and blend well. Add the vinaigrette and stir in the remaining cheese. Let the dressing stand at room temperature for a minimum of 1 hour before serving.

George's Basic Vinaigrette

Makes 2 cups | Know Your Fire Cookbook

"Use whichever vinegar appeals to you: If using balsamic, cut the amount in half." 

1 1/4 cups virgin olive oil

3/4 cups vinegar

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp dry mustard

1/4 tsp hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and beat with a fork or a whisk to blend. Or place the ingredients in a jar with a tightly fitting lid and shake until they're well blended.

Allow the dressing to sit at room temperature for 24 hours to develop the flavor.

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There are four main kinds of lettuce to choose from: Butterhead (Bibb), Crisphead (Iceberg), Looseleaf (Cutting) and Romaine. 

Looseleaf

Looseleaf lettuce make colorful tender leaf salads in chartreuse, deep green and bronzy reds. 

Crisphead

Crisphead lettuce contain curved, overlapping leaves which form crispy, firm round heads. Inside, creamy white leaves are tightly packed. Deep green outer leaves are delicious too.

Romaine

Romaine lettuce contain elongated, thick leaves which are crisp and savory.

Butterhead

Butterhead lettuce is the largest and best-flavored group of lettuces. Tender leaf lettuces form a tightly folded head with delicate buttery flavor. Typically smaller heads than other types.