Monday, March 30, 2009

Green Goddess Salad Dressing: Vegan Remix

Normally, I would consider myself to be a simple salad dressing kind of girl - olive oil, a squirt of lemon and maybe some shallots and balsamic if I'm feeling especially jazzy. However, there is one restaurant's salad dressing that will always remain as one of my tastiest memories, and for only having had it once, have yet to lose a single ounce of the memory, now 4 years later... In June of 2005, my aunt Erica took me to Chez Panisse as a gracious graduation gift. I remember ordering the butter lettuce salad with Green Goddess dressing. Simply adorned with beautiful, bright ruby-red clusters of pomegranate seeds, it was one of the prettiest salads I'd ever seen. It was first time I experienced a salad that seemingly melted away in my mouth. Thickened up and beautifully colored by avocado - it was sensational.

Growing up, I had always been so curious about what went on behind the dark wood front, with the trellises covered in vines (it was in a house on a main stretch in Berkeley - Shattuck Avenue). Little did I know, it would become one of the most fascinating eateries to me, and probably, most influential for it's take on California-cuisine. I knew the the woman who started it, Alice Waters, was also the woman who started what would become my most prized memory at Martin Luther King middle school - the Edible Garden & kitchen. Among my grandparents, Tom and Nancy; my parents, Bill and Amanda, and my Aunt Jennifer, Alice Waters too, would make the cut in who I felt had made the biggest influence on my life in the kitchen growing up.

At the moment, I'm reading (and thoroughly enjoying) 'Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution'. It got me thinking back to my one visit there, and the salad dressing I've never been able to make quite right. I decided to look harder and give it another go the other day. I made it a little bit of my own (substituting the raw egg for silken tofu), but was quite happy with the turnout. Enough so to share. This is my version of Chez Panisse's Green Goddess Dressing tossed in Boston (butter) lettuce.

Green Goddess Salad Dressing


Yields 1 1/2 cups

- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced

- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoon Silken Tofu (or, in CP version - 1 large egg yolk at room temperature)
- 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (may want more to reach desired consistency)
- 1/2 ripe avocado

- 3 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon

- 1 tablespoon chopped basil
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives

- salt and pepper (to taste)


- blender or Cuisinart (either are best if using Silken Tofu)

In a small bowl, combine the shallot with the garlic, vinegar and lemon and lime juices. Let stand for 5 minutes.

If you are using Silken Tofu, I would recommend blending all of the ingredients together for a consistently smooth texture. Otherwise, combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl. Mash avocado with fork and gradually whisk in first mixture of shallot, garlic, vinegar, lemon and lime juice.

I served mine over a bed of butter lettuce, which has a very mellow, buttery and soft flavor that compliments the creamy dressing well. I then topped it off with some fresh, pink radishes for a bit of a bite. It would also be great with a light sprinkling of fresh peas.

Chez Panisse - Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, California

(Photo courtesy of Barista Magazine)