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Outstanding Salad and Controversial Salad Dressing

by: padre art

Salad was popular with the Babylonians thousands of years ago and the favorite dressing for their greens was the basic and still familiar, oil and vinegar. The imperial Romans varied this already ancient recipe by adding salt to the oil/vinegar mix or using straight brine as their topping.

This led to their naming this dish 'salata', from the Latin for salt, 'sal'. The Romans had a lasting influence throughout Europe and the British Isles so it is no surprise that the French word developed as 'salade' and in Britain of the 1300's the term was 'sallet'.

Modern Holiday Recipes

fresh bowl of salad A quick holiday recipe is an easy to make one created for a special occasion, the 1893 pre-opening party of New York's Waldorf Astoria. This fruit combo originated with the man who later became known as 'Oscar of the Waldorf'. Oscar Tschirky gave his famous recipe to the world in 1896 when he published it in, "The Cook Book", by Oscar of the Waldorf. It took only three sentences to describe the salad, salad dressing and the simple preparation technique for this famous taste treat;

"Peel two raw apples and cut them into small pieces, say about half an inch square, also cut some celery the same way and mix it with the apple. Be very careful not to let any seeds of the apples be mixed with it. The salad must be dressed with a good mayonnaise."

"The Original Boston Cooking-School Cook Book" came out the same year but the 1918 edition had this among its recipes;

"Mix equal quantities of finely cut apple and celery, and moisten with mayonnaise dressing. Garnish with curled celery and canned pimentos cut in strips or fancy shapes.

An attractive way of serving this salad is to remove tops from red or green apples, scoop out inside pulp, leaving just enough adhering to skin to keep apples in shape. Refill shells thus made with the salad, replace tops, and serve on lettuce leaves."

The completely revised 1946 edition of Fanny Merritt Farmer's cookbook left out the suggestions for garnish and presentation and gave the world this streamlined version of the recipe (the capitalized 'and' as well as the italicized 'or' are true to the original text);

Apple And Celery or Waldorf Salad

"Mix 1 1/2 cups cubed apple with 1 cup finely cut celery and 1/2 cup mayonnaise or Cooked Dressing (p.483). Add 1/4 cup chopped walnut or pecan meats, if desired. Serves 6."

This ever popular recipe can now be found in many variations and complications but is a holiday recipe that is delicious and easy to make.

salad with a glass of wine

Controversial Origins

It is none other than the eminent chef, Julia Child, that gave weight to the claim of Caesar Cardini as the originator of the 'Caesar's Salad'. It was Rosa Cardini, daughter of Caesar, that Julia contacted for the authentic recipe, 50 years after these memories.

"I am probably one of the few people around who saw the real Caesar Cardini making his salad. And it was dramatic; I remember most clearly the eggs going in, and how he tossed the leaves so that it looked like a wave turning over."

When Caesar Cardini first served his famous blend of ingredients in the early 1920's, he used just the hearts of the romaine lettuce, the tender short leaves in the center, and he presented them whole. It was tossed and dressed, then arranged on each plate so that you could pick up a leaf by its short end and chew it down bit by bit, then pick up another.

However, many customers didn't like to get their fingers covered with egg, cheese and garlic dressing and he changed to the conventional torn leaf.

Here is what Rosa Cardini remembered from her childhood and gave to Julia Child;


1/2 cup day-old bread, cubed
3/4 cup garlic oil, divided use
2 small heads romaine lettuce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 eggs, coddled (boiled in the shell for 1 minute)
Juice of 2 medium lemons
10 drops of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

To prepare the garlic oil, place 4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and quartered, in a good quality (e.g. Extra Virgin) olive oil and let it stand at room temperature several hours or even up to 5 days.

To prepare croutons, pre-heat oven to 225° F. Toss bread cubes with 1/4 cup garlic oil and spread on a pan or baking sheet. Toss frequently and bake until golden brown, about 2 hours.

Wash, dry and crisp (in the refrigerator) the leaves of the romaine lettuce. Originally, Caesar left the lettuce leaves whole, and the salad was eaten with the fingers, but later he tore the outer leaves into 2 inch lengths, leaving only the small inner leaves whole, and the salad was eaten with a fork.

Place lettuce in a large bowl and toss with remaining 1/2 cup of garlic oil. Add salt and pepper, again tossing gently. Break the coddled eggs over the lettuce, add lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce and toss two or three times. Add croutons and cheese. Toss lightly once more. Serves 4."

There is no controversy between Julia's recipe and Rosa's, the problem is, or the problems are the many contenders for the title to its creation.

As Rosa reports, her father concocted the dish during a Fourth of July rush in 1924 which depleted the kitchen's supplies. Chef Cardini made do with what he had and added the dramatic flourish of table-side tossing by the 'Chef'.

Caesar’s brother included anchovies in his version which he called 'Aviators Salad'.

Paul Maggiora was a partner of the Cardini's and he claims both the recipe and the name.

An employee of the restaurant at Caesar's hotel, Livio Santini, claims his mother as the originator and various other employees there on the Avenida Revolucion, in Tijuana, also claim authorship of the recipe.

A story has circulated that some Hollywood stars created it after a party at Caesar's but the earliest claim to ownership originates two decades earlier and thousands of miles from Tijuana; in Chicago, Illinois.

A cook by the name of Giacomo Junia is said to have developed the idea for 'Caesar's Salad' in 1903, which he named after his favorite countryman, Julius Caesar. Giacomo was working at the New York Café (in Chicago) when he is said to have created the recipe to cater to American taste in Italian food.

Raw Eggs and Salmonella

The US Dept of Health states that cooking at temperatures of 72° C/160° F or more is sufficient to kill salmonella, but children, the elderly and persons with compromised immune systems are advised against eating lightly-cooked eggs because of possible under-cooking.

Coddled eggs will give an authentic flavor and gives you a chance to use those collectible egg coddlers. You can also substitute some mayonnaise or yogurt for the egg to give that creamy texture and avoid any risk.

If you want to wander farther a-field, leave out the eggs and other substitutes to make some 'Caesar's Vinaigrette' for your bowl of greens.

Crab Louie the 'King of Salads

Crab Louie, also called the ‘King of Salads’, was definitely created on the west coast of the US around 1900. Five cities claim to be the home of this recipe, two in California, one in Oregon and two in Washington state;

The Olympic Club in Seattle
The Davenport Hotel in Spokane

the Bohemian in Portland

Solari's Restaurant
St. Francis Hotel
Both in San Francisco

In 1917 the epicurean James Beard went with his mother to restaurants that served food of different types. A favorite was the Bohemian, that Beard remembers for a dish called Crab Louis.

A recipe for Crab Louie exists from 1914 in a publication entitled 'Bohemian San Francisco'. Crab Louie was being served in San Francisco, at Solari's, as early as 1914. Louis Davenport was the founder of the Davenport Hotel in Spokane, Washington. Crab Louie can be found in the historical menus, that pre-date 1914, from the hotel restaurant.

Coincidentally, Louis Davenport came to the Washington Territory in 1889, from San Francisco, California.

There is a 1910 edition of Victor Hertzler's, head chef of the St. Francis Hotel, cookbook with a recipe for Crab Louie. But the earliest claim is from a unique and disinterested source.

The Metropolitan Opera Company played Seattle, Washington in 1904 with Enrico Caruso as star. At an after-performance dinner at the Olympic Club, the story goes, Enrico ordered his favorite treat, Crab Louie. It was memorable because he ordered it repeatedly until there was none left in the kitchen.

Crab Louie;

Dungeness Crab meat
Hard boiled eggs

Served on a bed of Romaine lettuce with a Louie dressing, on the side.

Crab Louie Dressing;

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup chili sauce
3 tbls finely minced green onions (include some green tops)
3 tbl finely minced green pepper
1 tble fresh lemon juice
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp hot pepper sauce

It will be pink and creamy with green flecks and taste like Thousand Island with an attitude.

The dressing is served on the side traditionally but newer versions toss it with the ingredients. For a quick alternative you can add Tabasco sauce to regular Thousand Island to create a passable dressing for Crab Louie, the 'King of Salads'.

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From Late-Night Snack to World Famous Entree

Another well known recipe originating on the west coast is unquestionably the brainchild of Bob Cobb. He owned the famous restaurant favored by Hollywood's elite, The Brown Derby. His creation of the 'Cobb Salad' in 1937 is legendary.

It was after hours at the restaurant when Sid Grauman, owner of the fabled 'Grauman's Chinese Theater', and Bob Cobb raided the kitchen of 'The Brown Derby'. With his head in the 'fridge Bob handed out romaine and iceberg lettuce, avocado, hard-boiled egg, tomatoes and the other ingredients that make up his impromtu snack. Imagine Dagwood and a buddy raiding the refrigerator to make a salad instead of a sandwich.

It was not uncommon to see limousines driven to 'The Brown Derby' by chauffeurs that were sent for some carry-out of 'Cobb Salad' made from this popular recipe;

colorful bowl of salad

Cobb Salad;
1/2 head lettuce
1/2 head romaine
2 tomatoes 1 bunch watercress
1 small bunch chicory, about 2 cups
6 strips of crisp bacon
2 breasts of cooked chicken
3 hard-boiled eggs
1 avocado
1/2 cup crumbled Roquefort cheese
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Cut chicory, lettuce, romaine and watercress in small pieces and place in large salad bowl.
Cut chicken, eggs, avocado and tomatoes in bite sized chunks into greens.
Crumble bacon and Roquefort cheese on top.
Sprinkle minced chives over the Cobb salad.
Just before serving, toss salad with the salad dressing.
Garnish with some of the watercress.

Cobb's Dressing;
Makes 1 1/2 cups
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water - (From the Brown Derby: The water is optional, depending upon your taste.)
Blend all ingredients together. Mix well. Blend well again before mixing with the other ingredients.

Dressings and Garnish

A dressing recipe comes in tow basic types, the vinaigrette and the creamy topping. Vinaigrette is really a wide range of flavors with a base of oil and vinegar mixed.

By adding one or more herbs, pepper or other spices it is possible to achieve subtle flavor nuances to enhance your salads. The origins of this blend of oil and vinegar with flavorings is lost in the mists of pre-history.

The creamy dressing is often made with mayonnaise to give it the desired texture. Other ingredients that will achieve the same effect are sour cream or yogurt. Raw eggs were once used to impart a glistening creaminess but coddled eggs have replaced them due to fears of salmonella poisoning from the uncooked egg.

Many other flavor combination's are popular worldwide as a sauce for greens or other ingredients;

Sesame oil
Soy sauce

And by adding flavored garnishes (anchovies to zucchini) you can present your taste buds with an experience that can range from familiar to exotic.

For a tasty salad treat try my Two Cheese Tossed Salad

Fresh Salad Recipes

Crunchy Spinach Salad
Greek Picnic Salad
Potato Salad with Fresh Herbs
Tortellini Pasta Salad
Two Cheese Tossed Salad