house always wins

food detective

Categories: Salads and Dressings, Dinner for Two, Supper, Dinner Party, Lunch, Posted on February 16, 2021 by Sandy Bergsten - Comments (0)

Why are the simple things often the most difficult to replicate? Take salad dressings. I’ve pretty much mastered a perfect balsamic vinaigrette, a creamy caesar dressing, a wonderful emulsified dressing you can make for a crowd, and a nostalgic thousand island. You can find them all by clicking on the “recipe” tab on the upper right bar of this blog. Once there my blog turns into a cookbook with everything from apps to desserts.

One elusive salad, and definitely its dressing, is house Italian. Bottled versions simply don’t cut it. But my homemade ones haven’t historically measured up either. So this past week I took a gamble to try to nail this once and for all. I’m happy to report I think I’ve come pretty close.

Top shelf ingredients make all the difference when making homemade dressings and vinaigrettes. Because you don’t use much, your best oils and vinegars make a world of difference. You’ll be amazed how they elevate. 

But there is something kitschy about house Italian. I realized that I needed to sub my fresh herbs for dried. Think back to that wonderful 1970’s show Upstairs/Downstairs on BBC. For some reason it simply works.

Here’s the dressing. And an iconic house Italian salad inspired by Mark Iacono at Lucali in Brooklyn. 

For the dressing combine four tablespoons red wine vinegar, two teaspoons honey and one teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice. With a whisk or hand blender slowly add five tablespoons extra-virgin olive and three tablespoons grape seed oil.

Blend until emulsified.

With a spoon stir in the garlic salt, dried parsley, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes.

Stir in the grated Parmesan.Season with several grinds of pepper. Add a pinch of kosher salt if needed.

Set aside or can be made earlier and refrigerated for two weeks in tightly sealed container.

For the house italian salad begin by halving two small tomatoes, then cutting each half into fifths. 

Peel and thinly slice a quarter of a red onion.

Chop a small rib of celery with leaves from the heart.

In a medium bowl combine the tomatoes, red onion and celery.

Add twelve canned, pitted black olives, bruising each slightly between finger and thumb. 

Add a tablespoon of olive brine.

Add the salt, peppers, olive oil and red-wine vinegar to the bowl with the tomatoes.

Mix gently. 

Cover with plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator for a minimum of twenty minutes and up to two hours.

Wash and dry half a head of iceberg lettuce. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

To assemble the salad spoon enough of the tomato mixture and accumulated juices to cover its bottom onto a small platter, or individual plates. 

Arrange some of the iceberg across the top of the tomatoes, and drizzle with a little dressing. 

Add some more of the tomato mixture, then another layer of the iceberg. Drizzle with some more of the dressing. Repeat.

Serve Immediately so the lettuce doesn't wilt. This is one bet you can take to the bank.

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