Summer Salads with Green Goddess Dressing

IMG_6554Vintage cookbooks are often a treasure trove of information, especially if you want to know the history of a recipe.  If you flip through some, you may come across recipes for Green Goddess Dressing, a classic creamy dressing that gets its color from the herbs that are pureed into the mixture.  If you have an herb garden that is producing large quantities of parsley, tarragon and chives, this may just be the recipe for you.

For this recipe, I turned to my copy of Helen Brown’s West Coast Cook Book, a 1952 reprint published by the Cookbook Collectors Library.  In the headnote for the recipe, she names The Palace Hotel (presumably the one in San Francisco) as the source and the creators of the dressing.  According to Ms. Brown, it was created in honor of the actor, George Arliss and the opening of the play The Green Goddess by William Archer.

IMG_6555My copy of the book is a reprint but I love the graphics of this version!  This printing does not include any other drawings or photographs in the recipe and I have not ever seen one with a dust jacket but if you are lucky enough to find a copy of the original printing, it may have the dust jacket.  Either way, if you enjoy the Mid-Century Modern style of cooking, I recommend picking up a copy, it is full of great recipes!

IMG_6556The Palace Hotel’s Green Goddess Dressing

from Helen Evans Brown’s West Coast Cook Book

Makes about 3 1/4 cups-can easily be cut in half or thirds

8-10 filets of anchovies (I only used 3)

1 green onion, chopped

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon

3 cups mayonnaise (I used half mayonnaise and half buttermilk so that it would be thinner)

1/4 cup tarragon vinegar

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

She instructs the reader to mince the anchovies with the green onion and then combine all of the ingredients in a bowl that has been rubbed with garlic.  To make my batch of dressing, I combined it all in the blender and pureed until smooth and no chunks of anchovies were visible, and I omitted the fresh garlic but you could easily add some if you like.  Keep it in the fridge, it lasts about a week but after that, it starts to get a little fishy from the anchovies.

A few notes:

The dressing has a tendency to thicken and gel after it sits in the fridge, I used buttermilk to lighten it and add a little tang.  After refrigeration, it will need to be stirred so that it pours.

Be sure to use fresh herbs for the best flavor and texture, a perfect excuse to plant a few in pots and keep them on the window sill or the garden.

Using a blender makes the dressing smooth, if you prefer, you can mince the ingredients as finely as possible and whisk the dressing together.  You could also use an immersion blender but I would skip the food processor because of the small amounts of herbs and anchovies.


herbs are summer workhorses in the garden; homemade buttermilk ranch dressing

what is one of the best kept secrets of gardening?  herbs thrive in poor conditions.  they can be a bit like weeds.  just about the only thing they cannot do without is water.  most of them will even soldier on in less than full sun conditions.  the hardest part of caring for fresh herbs is to keep the annuals from setting blooms; once they flower, they go into seed production and stop producing the leafy parts we cook with.  unlike zucchini,  there is no shortage of recipes to use them in.  one of my favorite recipes is for homemade ranch dressing.  when you are trimming off the flower stalks to parsley and dill, go a little further and take enough off the plant to mix up a batch of fresh buttermilk ranch dressing.

in my herb garden, i have a combination of green onions, chives and chinese leeks.  on the left, those are green onions-scallions if you prefer.  on the right, chinese leeks which are very similar to garlic chives.  the difference is in how they produce the leaves.  chinese leeks and garlic chives look very similar to miniature leeks-the greens branch out from the top of the white part.  for chives, each one is single tube with a bulb.

parsley is a great plant in the garden.  it is a host plant for butterflies such as swallowtails.  it makes an edible border or edging plant and it will help attract beneficial insects such as minute pirate bugs and tachinid flies.

parsley is a biennial plant.  that means the first year, it will grow and produce leaves and a strong root system.  the second year, it will shift into the production of flowers and ultimately, seeds, called bolting.  because parsley will bolt, many gardeners treat it as an annual and pull it out at the end of the season. the large leaves on the left are from a plant that has not bolted while the smaller ones on the right are from a plant that has begun to bolt.  since the leaves are no longer the primary function of the plant, it is spending less energy on them and they are smaller.  even so, they both taste pretty good.

dill is an annual and cannot take any freezing.  it too will shift into seed production each year, usually when the temperatures hit the high points in mid summer.  in my garden, i remove the flower heads as they form to keep the plant producing edible foliage.  like many other plants, dill can also help attract beneficial insects to the garden so if you let some of it flower, do not despair.  those flower heads will help bring in ladybugs, parasitic wasps and tachinid flies.

pick the herbs early in the day when the plants are not wilting from the sun.  wash them by letting them soak in cold water, give it a swish or two.  let them sit for a while so the soil has a chance to sink to the bottom of the bowl.  carefully lift the leaves out and dry them before using.  trial and error has led me to using my salad spinner to dry the leaves if i have a lot.  for small amounts, such as what this recipe calls for, i spread them out on a clean, dry towel and then roll it up to remove the moisture.  chopping by hand requires a little effort and a sharp knife.

buttermilk ranch dressing
yields about 1 1/2 cups
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives
1 tablespoon freshly chopped dill
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon granulated (or powdered) garlic (dried, fresh will turn quickly in this)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper, ground 
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup buttermilk
in a mixing bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the lemon juice, spices and herbs to make a thick paste.  carefully whisk in the buttermilk to make a somewhat thin dressing.  chill for an hour to let the flavor develop and the dressing thicken from the fresh lemon juice.  
to make peppercorn ranch, add cracked peppercorns to your taste, a couple teaspoons should do it!

semolina bundt cake with lemon and thyme

when it comes to bundt cakes, the ones with a pound cake texture are always the easiest to unmold and slice.  if they are scented with lemon and herbs, as this one is, they also seem to be favorites among my fellow garden volunteers.  right now, the herb garden is bursting with thyme in bloom which made adding a few sprigs to this cake the obvious choice.

since i bring a cake whenever i go to the garden, i have to keep it interesting.  that stands to reason for the people eating it as much as it does for me, the person baking it.  while looking through the larder in search of inspiration, i came across my container of semolina flour.  then i stumbled upon the bag of almond flour in the freezer.  semolina flour and almond flour both add to the texture without changing it  visibly.  the color of the semolina and the almond flour after it is toasted accentuate the golden hue of the cake.  freshly grated lemon zest and thyme leaves give it a wonderful aroma as well as flavor and make this a great cake for a picnic.  if you want to go a little crazy, try using slabs of this cake in place of a biscuit or angelfood cake cups for a wonderful shortcake dessert; the cake flavor would blend beautifully with fresh berries.

semolina bundt cake with lemon and thyme
one 10-12 cup bundt serving 12-16
1/2 cup almond flour
1 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup semolina flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons freshly picked thyme leaves
4 eggs
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour the bundt pan and set it aside.  in a small ovenproof dish or pan, spread the almond flour out and bake it until golden, about 5 minutes.  set aside to cool.  place all of the dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk it together to remove any lumps in the flour.  add the cooled almond flour and stir it in.
in a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar, lemon zest and thyme leaves until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.  add the eggs, one at a time and scrape the bowl as you go.  add the dry ingredients to the bowl and by hand using a spatula or spoon, fold them in a few times.  sprinkle the buttermilk over the mixture and continue folding the batter together by hand until no streaks remain.  scape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted, about 45-50 minutes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes and then invert it onto a rack to finish cooling.  to serve the cake, give it a light dusting of powdered sugar.  
this cake recipe is very versatile; try substituting different citrus fruits or herbs as well as nut flours.  orange, rosemary, lime, thyme, lavender, basil, pecan meal-you get the idea!  the list goes on and on…and one more thing, have i mentioned how much i love the herb garden?  best kitchen “tool” ever!

floral baby cakes; twd/bwj

this weeks tuesdays with dorie challenge was upside-down baby cakes with rhubarb.  sounds tasty doesn’t it?  knowing that i would need fresh rhubarb for the recipe, i went to the grocery store and what they were asking $5.99 per pound for wasn’t worth a dime.  generally, “my neighborhood kroger” (as they so like to call themselves) carries frozen, sliced rhubarb but they no longer do so.  the recipe lists a selection of fruits to substitute but nothing sounded interesting.  while looking at the photo for the recipe, i noticed that the cake pictured was topped with sage leaves, that caught my attention.  further reading revealed a paragraph at the end of the recipe on making the cakes with scented geraniums-bingo!  well, kinda sorta.  i do not have any scented geraniums.  but i do have an herb garden that has many plants in bloom: sage, thyme, borage and rosemary are all covered in blooms.  borage won.

to see the recipe, visit the blogpage of our host this week, erin, of when in doubt-leave it at 350.  to see what all of the other participants made, visit the tuesdays with dorie website.

my husband likes to surprise me with food gifts.  for christmas, he tucked a bottle of kewda water, also called kewra water, into my stocking and i have been waiting for a recipe to use it in.  it is very floral, like rosewater on steroids and it was the perfect addition to my little cakes.  if you want to try some, head to an indian market since it is a popular addition to indian pastries and desserts.

the recipe is pretty versatile, the kewda water was an easy 1 to 1 substitution for the suggested rose water.  the recipe also called for creme fraiche or sour cream-i had neither and used buttermilk with perfect results.

once the simple butter cake recipe was mixed, i gently dropped a scoop of batter over each flower in the  cups of the mini muffin pan.  if you use edible flowers, be sure they have not been treated with pesticides.  since the borage flowers came from my garden, that wasn’t an issue.  my mini cakes baked up quickly, about 12 minutes at 350 using a heaped #70 scoop per cup.

pretty little cakes, perfect for a trip to the garden-i always bring a cake to share!

summer savory pound cake

despite the heat and lack of rain, some of the herbs in the demonstration garden are going strong.  one of them that is putting on a show is the summer savory.  last week, i decided to cut the plant back since it had spilled out of the bed and across the walkway.  not wanting to waste the bounty, i brought it home.  it seems only fitting that it found it’s way into the cake i took to share with my fellow gardeners in the demonstration garden this morning.

to tell the difference between summer savory and winter savory, look at the color of the flowers.  winter savory has white flowers, summer savory has lavender.  while it doesn’t show well in the photo, the blooms most definitely were lavender.

summer savory pound cake
1 (4-6) cup bundt cake serving about 6-8
1 cup sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-2 tablespoons freshly picked summer savory leaves
zest from 1 orange
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon wildflower honey
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a 4-6 cup bundt or tube pan and set it aside.  cream the butter and sugar with the savory, zest and salt until it is light and fluffy.  add the eggs slowly, one at a time, and scrape the bowl between additions.  sift the flour and leaveners over the batter and fold it in a few times by hand.  sprinkle the buttermilk over the top of the batter and fold the mixture until it is completely blended.  scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the center of the oven.  while the cake bakes, prepare the syrup by heating the juice and honey until they almost come to the simmer.  set aside and keep slightly warm.  bake the cake until a pick inserted comes out clean, approximately 50 minutes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes and then turn it out onto a rack set over a pan to completely cool.  once the warm cake (yes, warm because a cold cake does not accept syrup as well as a warm one) is on the rack, gently brush the syrup over the top of the cake.  allow the cake to cool completely before serving.
and back out to the garden i go!