The spring rain makes everything so lively and exciting. It invigorates me almost as much as the sun. With every raindrop, I start to anticipate all the lovely things that will hopefully grow from my herb and vegetable garden. Soon every meal will be designed after random harvests from the backyard
Part of my crops include tender herbs like basil, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, parsley and tarragon. These are the herbs with delicate leaves and stems. They aren’t meant for long term cooking. They are meant to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. (Here is a great beginner’s guide to herbs.)
The top stem is from cilantro and the bottom is from tarragon. Tarragon, in my opinion, has tender leaves but not so tender stems. If I see a smooth stem (like the cilantro), I’ll won’t worry about picking the herb completely off the stem. If I see a knotty stem (like the tarragon), I’ll pluck the herb leaves completely off the stem.
One of my favorite recipes to use fresh tender herbs in is green goddess dressing. Rumored to have been named after a 1920’s play called “Green Goddess”, it also has loose ties to the French sauce verte which was used as a cold condiment for potatoes and some fish.
The star of Green Goddess is the herbs. This is one of those recipes that you can’t sub in dry herbs. The herbs need to be fresh-fresh-fresh. Before you add them to your recipe, give them a good whiff. If they don’t invoke that feeling you get when you see a rainbow, you may need to add more to your recipe. You want the herbs to pop.
Essentially you need just a few ingredients to make this dressing happen:
- Tender herbs
- Mayonnaise (yogurt or sour cream also work well)
- A clove of garlic
- Squeeze of lemon
- A tiny umami sparkler (like an anchovy, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, etc.)
The other nice part of Green Goddess is that there is very little work to be done in preparing it. All you do is add the ingredients to a food processor and twirl. If you want a thinner dressing for salads, you may want to add more buttermilk. If you want it thicker for a dip, make at least an hour ahead of serving time and chill it in the refrigerator. It will thicken as it cools off.
A few extra suggestions:
- This dressing is best on iceberg, romaine and butterhead lettuces.
- Although the name is “green” don’t feel you need to green it up with the addition of an avocado. It may be a quick solution but why risk it browning.
- Spinach or kale is often added, but I think tastes too earthy and not as herby.
- Basil is the one herb I use the least in green goddess. It also loses its color pretty easily and the dressing starts to take on a “pesto” vibe.
- Go easy on your umami addition. You want it to compliment the herbs not overpower everything. (Hence the reason I said umami sparkler and not an umami bomb.)
- I’ve also added jalapeño in the past. As much as I like the heat, it is not meant for a classic Green goddess.
- I like my herb pieces a little bigger so I don’t achieve the super green consistent smooth dressing. If you want to have it super creamy, just process it longer.
Finally, I hesitate to say salad dressing because the versatility of green goddess dressing goes so much further than “just” on salads. It can go on lettuce, mixed into a pasta salad, used as a sandwich spread or a dip for fresh veggies. I’m a fan of a dollop of green goddess on a hard-boiled egg or in lieu of cocktail sauce with poached shrimp.
Green Goddess Salad Dressing
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Makes about 1 cup, enough for about 6 salads (given a few tablespoons of dressing per salad)
1 clove garlic
1 packed cup of tender herbs* (this batch was chives, tarragon, parsley and cilantro)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (the better quality the mayo, the better the dressing!)
1/2 cup buttermilk (you might need a smidge more if you want a drizzly dressing.)
1/2 teaspoon anchovy juice (I normally would use 1-2 anchovies but I didn’t have any in house.)
1/2 of a lemon juiced
*Note on the herbs. You don’t have to pluck every leaf off the stem. I cut just below the bottom leaves. The food processor will do the hard work.
1. In a food processor, pulse the garlic first to ensure it gets finely chopped.
2. Add herbs and pulse a few times.
3. Add in mayonnaise, buttermilk and anchovy sauce or whole anchovies.
4. Process on low until smooth. (You may need to scrape the sides a few times so you don’t have herby chunks.)
5. Taste and check consistency. This is where I would add a little lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt. If you want to add pepper, make it white pepper so that you don’t leave black flecks in the green dressing.
6. If you are using it as a dip, it will thicken upon chilling.
7. If you are using it as dressing, add some to a mixing bowl and toss your lettuce with the dressing. Don’t drown it. You can also drizzle it or serve it on the side.
If you have some extra herbs or an abundance of stems from this dressing, use them in a poaching liquid. Poach some shrimp in the herb stems that you used in the recipe. Then serve the shrimp “cocktail style” with green goddess in lieu of cocktail sauce.
If you want to learn more about herbal dressings, check out the virtual Tortilla Chicken Soup class on Sunday, June 5 at 4pm CST. Part of the class includes making a baby kale salad with avocado, pumpkin seeds and cilantro vinaigrette. And remember if you can’t make on that particular day, register for the class and a recording of the class will be available to you for seven days after the class so you can still watch the action on your own schedule.