Green Goddess Salad
April is the month that spring really gets into high gear, even here in Buffalo. April is the month of Venus, the goddess of love and with flowers beginning to bloom, it’s easy to see why. April is also the month of Earth day – April 22. I was ten years old the very first Earth Day. When I was a freshman in college, in my women’s studies classes, I read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. If you haven’t read this book, you really should!
I have always celebrated Earth Day with a vegetarian meal, usually a Big Salad. Green Goddess Salad is a perfect Earth Day choice. It mixes the celebration of Venus with the celebration of the green earth.
This is one of my absolute favorite salads. I have made it dozens of times, although I haven’t made it in quite a long time. It’s a little on the expensive side but I think it’s worth it. My recipe is from a cookbook that I wish I knew the name of but unfortunately it was in that period of time where I copied recipes out of books I got from the library and never wrote down the name of the cookbook! Which makes it really difficult to reference now! Suffice it to say that I have been making this salad for thirty years and I have tweaked the recipe numerous times – enough that it’s MY recipe now.
I did a little research on the history of the Green Goddess Salad. It was created at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in 1923 to honor the actor George Arliss, who was starring in the play, “The Green Goddess”, written by William Archer, which had been a big hit on Broadway and was now touring the United States. Arliss would star in two movies of that name, one made in 1923 and another one in 1930, for which he would receive an Oscar nomination. George Arliss was a big star of the stage and silent movies in the early twentieth-century but he is almost forgotten today. Likewise, both the play and the movie “The Green Goddess” have been lost in the mists of time. I read the synopsis of the screenplay and I can’t imagine “The Green Goddess” being popular in today’s culture – it’s a very silly romantic comedy about a plane wreck in a south-sea island and the need of a human sacrifice to a “Green Goddess” – all kinds of ridiculous antics before the British air corps save the day.
Unlike the play or the movie, Green Goddess Salad stayed popular throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s and into the 1960’s. There was a bottled version of the dressing but that disappeared in the 1970’s when ranch dressing became popular. Apparently, you can still buy it online but it’s $7.50 a bottle! I think it might be a tad cheaper to make it fresh! Not to mention much tastier!
If you Google “Green Goddess Salad”, you will find all kinds of salads. Some have chicken in them, some have shrimp, some have garbanzo beans. Some have “updated” versions of the salad dressing, omitting the mayonnaise and the sour cream and substituting avocado, making it a truly green dressing. Some have gotten rid of the creamy aspect of the dressing altogether – the Park Restaurant in San Francisco now serves a “Green Goddess Salad” with a dressing that is basically a vinaigrette made with tarragon wine vinegar and olive oil! Yes, the herbs are the same and there are anchovies in the mixture. But how can you have a “Green Goddess Salad” without a creamy salad dressing? Maybe I’m an old fart but that just doesn’t seem right to me!
The recipe I copied from the “mystery cookbook” was quite simple – but that was the way salads were thirty or forty years ago. Here is a scan of the recipe from MY cookbook, complete with typos:
Because I am not going to be serving six people, I too “updated” this salad for my own use. I am having it for my dinner, so naturally it’s going to be on the large size but it’ll be half the size of this recipe.
The first thing I did was make the dressing. I no longer own a blender or food processor, so this was a totally different process. In the old days, I would cut fresh parsley from my garden, coarsely chop the green onions, add everything else and blend. But I couldn’t figure out how to chop the green onions finely enough by hand for a salad dressing, so I decided to put them on the salad instead. I added garlic powder instead. And I had to use dried parsley instead of fresh.
Instead of mayonnaise and sour cream, I used plain Greek yogurt. I used a single-serve container, so it was a little more than half a cup. With that in mind, I used more or less half the amount of the rest of the ingredients. The beauty of making salad dressings is that you can fool around with the seasonings a bit – it’s not like baking a cake, where you have to be precise.
I didn’t use tarragon vinegar. It’s wicked expensive and I have to be honest – I really do not like the flavor of tarragon very much. So I used white wine vinegar instead. I did add a small amount of dried tarragon with the other herbs. When I tasted it, I decided that it needed a little more anchovy paste and a touch of sugar – I wasn’t going to add any sugar but I decided that it needed it. I also added a dash of salt.
This salad dressing needs to sit for the ingredients to fully “marry” and “get happy”, as Emeril would say. Put a cover on the bowl and set it in the refrigerator and do something else for at least fifteen minutes. Thirty minutes are better.
I arranged the greens on a large plate. I rarely eat endive because when I was a kid, I really hated it and now I don’t think about unless a specific recipe calls for it. But I had to admit that the pale curly leaves looked pretty on top of the torn pieces of romaine. I decided to add baby spinach to the mix – to make the salad greener.
The recipe calls for “two medium tomatoes” but I had a bunch of those little “Campari” tomatoes, so I took three of them and halved them and arranged them along the edge of the plate. Then I chopped the green onions that I had omitted from the salad dressing and I added them to the salad.
At this point, the recipe calls for “frozen artichoke hearts, cooked, drained & chilled” – if you want to do this, you can but I only did this the first time I made this recipe. After that, I bought canned artichoke hearts. They’re much easier to deal with and you can refrigerate the ones you don’t use for another salad on another day. As for the olives – I really wanted to get good Greek olives – Kalamata Olives would have been perfect – but the inner-city grocery store I went to didn’t have any. Honestly, I was amazed that they had anchovy paste!
I omitted the anchovies and added salad shrimp instead. This is what the salad looked like when I had it all assembled on the plate and before I put the dressing on it:
Ok – this was the problem. When I put the salad dressing on top of the salad, it flowed over the top like slow-moving lava. It wasn’t attractive at all. I quickly threw the salad into a large bowl and mixed it all together until everything was “coated” with the dressing – which was what the recipe said to do, after all. Then I rearranged the salad on the plate:
Now – that looks good enough to eat!
As I ate, I made a few mental notes. One – the salad dressing really works better if you have a blender. I think also that fresh parsley and basil are a must. Putting those fresh green herbs into the blender with the mayo/sour cream/yogurt and pulverizing the hell out of them gives the dressing the proper pale green color. My dressing – although it tasted fabulous! – was white with green flecks. It wasn’t what it was supposed to be. As with Spell-Work, sometimes improvising works and sometimes it doesn’t.
The other thing was substituting salad shrimp for anchovies. If you are serving friends who do NOT like anchovies, then by all means substitute shrimp or chicken or garbanzos or whatever else you wish. But I really missed the flavor and the texture of the anchovies. I can guarantee you that the next time I make this salad – and it will be quite soon – I will be putting anchovies on the greens.
However you make this salad, enjoy Earth Day! Praise to Venus, the Goddess of Love and Spring and all good things! Brightest Blessings!
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About the Author:
Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.
Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.
She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.