Open any mid-century book on California Cooking and I guarantee you’ll find a recipe for one thing: Green Goddess dressing. (See three examples of my CA Cook Book collection, pictured above - all have it.) Since on St. Patrick’s day my friends and I had a “Green Food Till You Puke Pot Luck”, I decided one dish that I had to bring was Green Goddess Salad. It’s green, its slightly bizarre, and everyone loves it. (I also made green fondue, which is another story entirely, and rather disgusting.) See me and my friends in our green finery – Green Goddesses, all of us:
One of my favorite books on California Cooking is a 1950 edition of the “The New California Cook Book” by Genevieve Callahan. (pictured at top) Not only is it filled with tons of actually tasty things, but Genevieve is knowledgeable and chatty and tells us background on her recipes. She notes, for example, that Green Goddess Dressing was famously served at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel in honor of the English actor George Arliss, who appeared in a play called The Green Goddess in the 20s. (And to think, I had always just assumed it was some hippy BS!) The other thing I adore about this book is that the previous owner, Mrs. Vera A. McMillan, had written ALL OVER IT, and stuck clippings and other recipes in its pages. She clearly was a “Health Nut” who had saved coupons for “Dr. Fearn’s Soya Bean Capsules” and other delights. I am sure she knew my grandmother.
This dressing is simple and everyone loves it, but one thing that always bugs me is that I have never seen “tarragon vinegar” for sale anywhere. Was this something that went away over time? A culinary mystery. Instead, I used white wine vinegar and some dried tarragon. Also, you can adjust the amount of mayonnaise and sour cream to taste in case you prefer one to the other, and “heavy cream, soured” is just sour cream. Some variations on this recipe call for onion juice (1 tsp) or onion and/or garlic powder (very 50s). Finally, to make a dip for veggies rather than a salad dressing, eliminate the mayonnaise entirely, and you can also eliminate the anchovies (which are said to be a later addition anyhow) and it is still excellent.
Green Goddess Dressing
1 clove garlic, grated
3 Tbsp finely chopped anchovies, or anchovy paste
3 Tbsp finely chopped chives or green onions
1 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp tarragon wine vinegar
½ cup heavy cream, soured
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
Salt and coarse black pepper
Combine ingredients in order given. Chill, then pour liberally over coarsely torn mixed greens – roamine, chicory, and escarole or head lettuce and leaf lettuce. Toss until well-coated, adding more salt and pepper as needed. Serve in individual plates or bowls, to accompany the main course. You’ll mop up your salad plate with French bread when you finish! Makes about a pint.
Oh, did I mention I put just a drop of green food coloring in the dressing? You can barely tell... see, I saved most of it for the frosting on the green cupcakes above. Note also that the green fondue is cropped out of this photo. You're welcome!