Ok, I have nowhere near that many bottles of salad dressing in the door, but you all know exactly what I mean. Salad dressing is the kind of thing that seems to engage in spontaneous generation while the fridge is closed and the interior is dark and no one can see what’s going on.
We haven’t bought salad dressing in I-don’t-know-how-long, because having bottled salad dressing in the fridge drives me insane. The bottles take up so much room. And what happens is, you start to run low on something, and then you stop using it, because you’re all like, “Well, I’m about to run out of that one, I better save it for the right salad!” and then what you have is a bottle of dressing with, like, an ounce of dressing in it that takes up room in the fridge for two years, because no one is willing to just use the shit up. What began as a humble range of options — say, a vinaigrette, a creamy Caesar, and a balsamic-onion dressing — suddenly becomes 99 bottles of salad dressing in the door of the fridge, and you don’t have room for the things you actually want to have in the fridge, like the jar of capers, the bottle of Sriracha, and the pickled okra. All of which, by the way, are things you can use to make awesome salad dressings.
I am personally acquainted with a refrigerator where there are no bottles of salad dressing in the door, specifically, but the number of bottles is so vast that an entire shelf of the fridge is taken up with bottles of salad dressing. It amazes me because I frankly can’t imagine consuming salad enough to warrant owning that much salad dressing; it would make me ill to eat that much salad in an entire calendar year. I would be sent to a doctor, who would say, “Cut it out with the salad, okay?”
What’s more, that shelf in the fridge, that is prime refrigerator real estate, and it’s being wasted on salad dressing. It could be holding things that are important, like milk, or the leftover roast chicken, but no: the milk lives in the door of the fridge, where it’s bound to go bad faster, and the chicken carcass sits on the bottom shelf, where it gets forgotten until it begins to stink and then… into the trash. Some day, we will talk about The Refrigerator as Real Estate, and whip some sense into all of you.
To my original point: By and large, no one needs bottled salad dressing. Here’s what you need: oil and vinegar and salt and pepper. And condiments. Which are multi-purpose. If you want something a little jazzier on your salad, you add some horseradish or some mustard and whisk it in with your oil and vinegar and salt and pepper. Or add some mayonnaise. I’m all for having a jar of mayonnaise in the fridge! I’m all for condiments!
I know someone will read this and go, “jeez, what’s YOUR problem? Live and let live.” But I can’t do that. I have to be bitchy about this. Because at some level, the person who has 99 bottles of salad dressing is the person who’s thinking that they’re being all virtuous and healthy by eating salad but who in fact is just kidding themselves. Salad dressings are a frill, and an expensive-as-all-get-out frill at that. And bottled salad dressings have so many weird things added to them that God did not intend for you to have in your salad dressings; I just cannot accept the idea that Wish-Bone Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing is a healthful food item. I can accept the idea than an actual, honest-to-God, Caesar dressing is nutritious, but that bottled junk, no way*. I cannot accept that anything with that list of ingredients is, like, healthful.
I say this as someone who recently helped to organize a feeding frenzy for about 125 people. The event was a pig roast, and the sauces to be served with the pig were all to be homemade according to the very specific recipes supplied by the man roasting the pig. Bottled sauces from the store would not do. One of the other items on the menu was salad. The organizing committee spent some time discussing salad dressings. “I can pick up bottles of salad dressing,” someone offered helpfully. I said, “Nuh-uh: this is a meal where we can’t have bottled barbecue sauces, and I know the man roasting the pig and I am positive that showing up with bottled salad dressings would be a bad idea.” Everyone looked at me blankly. I took a deep breath and said, “I’ll make salad dressing.” Thinking, “Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick, salad dressing for 125 people, am I out of my mind?”
But I went home and thought about it for about 36 hours, during which I read a lot of Southern cookbooks and websites about Southern cooking, and I thought about novelty food items and things that were once standard on American tables but have fallen out of fashion even though they maybe shouldn’t have, and it dawned on me that what we needed to have at the pig roast, to serve with the salad, was one basic vinaigrette, for the nervous-eater types, and then one humdinger of a dressing to really knock people on their asses. Something rich. Something a little bit trashy and a little bit elegant at the same time. Something that no one would be expecting but that people would fall on with excitement. Preferably something with buttermilk. Maybe a Ranch dressing.
I pondered it for a while, stewing, thinking, “buttermilk dressing, buttermilk dressing.”
And I talked it over with a friend for about ten seconds and we realized the answer was Green Goddess salad dressing. Which I promptly mixed up in the food processor in batches. Two versions: one vegetarian and one not-vegetarian (it had anchovy in it, as God intended). I poured them into the biggest clamp-lid jars I own, labeled them, and packed them up with long-handled spoons to for serving. I set them out at the table near the salad bowls, and thought, “Well, here goes nothing.”
Three hours later, we were cleaning up. I noticed that there wasn’t much dressing leftover at all — most of the vinaigrette was gone, and almost all of the anchovied–Green Goddess. There were only about three cups of the vegetarian Green Goddess left. One of the women helping with clean-up asked me rather timidly, “Would it be ok with you if I poured some of that salad dressing into a bottle to take home?” I said, “Of course it’s ok! Take as much as you want!” In the end, I took home only about two cups of the vegetarian Green Goddess, which, considering how many quarts of dressing I’d made, really wasn’t much. (Under normal circumstances, I’d view two cups of salad dressing as an immense quantity, but when you’ve started out with dressing for 125, the scale of operations changes.)
Now I need to restock my mayonnaise supply, and also my olive oil supply, and we need more red wine vinegar. But, by my calculations, for about $20 worth of ingredients and in the space of maybe 30 minutes, I made all that salad dressing, and it would have cost more like…. I don’t even know how much, but for sure more than $20 to buy that much bottled salad dressing. Assuming I could even find bottled Green Goddess dressing anywhere.
Tonight we’ll be having macaroni and cheese for dinner, with salad on the side. Green Goddess dressing. I’m thinking I might whizz some anchovies in, because while it was very good without the anchovies, anyone with sense knows it’d be even better with the anchovies. I predict someone will wind up drinking it from a shot glass.
P.S.: Here’s how you make Green Goddess dressing, The Sloppy Hausfrau Way:
Get out your food processor. Wash an entire bunch of parsley (flat or curly-leaf, it does not matter one iota). Wash a bunch of scallions. Trim the ends off the parsley stems; trim the roots and any scungy bits off the scallions. Throw them in the food processor with a fat clove of garlic and maybe a tablespoon of dried tarragon and a tablespoon of salt. Whizz together, adding probably one and a half cups of mayonnaise and buttermilk until you have achieved desired consistency — some people want this very, very thick, some people want a pourable dressing. Taste as you go along. Throw in some capers if you like capers, some anchovies if you like anchovies. Maybe you’ll want more salt, especially if you didn’t use anchovies. Whizz and whizz and whizz until you have a pale green flecked thick liquid/sauce. This is your salad dressing. Enjoy.
*Here is the list of ingredients in a bottle of Wish-Bone Creamy Caesar Dressing: NGREDIENTS: SOYBEAN OIL, WATER, DISTILLED VINEGAR, EGG YOLKS, SUGAR, PARMESAN CHEESE (MILK, CHEESE CULTURES, SALT, ENZYMES), SALT, ANCHOVIES (FISH), SOY SAUCE (WATER, WHEAT, SOYBEANS, SALT), GARLIC, SPICES, PHOSPHORIC ACID, ONION, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, SORBIC ACID AND SODIUM BENZOATE AND CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA (USED TO PROTECT QUALITY), CORN SYRUP, POLYSORBATE 60, XANTHAN GUM, GARLIC POWDER, SOY FLOUR, AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, TAMARIND.
Yay, corn syrup. Just what I want in my Caesar salad. FFS.