Cocktail hour at my grandmother's was sacrosanct. At the stroke of 6pm, she would stop, pour herself an ice cold vodka straight up and enjoy the moment. This ritual occurred in any time zone, every day. In the summer, as the sun began to set, we would gather on the screened porch of her New England colonial house on the hill, surrounded by woods and green, all of us with a drink of some description and a selection of nibbles.
To me, these moments of my childhood are the personification of summer, and this year in particular, nostalgia is running high and significantly influencing my cooking. My neglected bibles have regained their position on the accessible book shelves, and the old classic sauces, condiments and sides reminiscent of Connecticut in August have pride of place at any meal.
Case in point, this updated version of Green Goddess Dressing has been eaten on almost everything here for weeks. I first made it as a dip for crudites, reminiscent of those summer evenings. Used the leftovers as the sauce for BBQ fish kebabs, and then made a slightly thinned version as salad dressing. I have also found members of my family drizzling it on frittata, sandwiches, the list goes on........
For those who may not have the slightest clue what I am talking about, Green Goddess Dressing was a Californian staple of 1970's and 80's cuisine. Created in the 1920's by the Chef at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco as a tribute to actor George Arliss and his play The Green Goddess, the dressing had a mayonnaise base, packed with herbs and a few anchovies. Almost like a blended, creamy, salsa verde.
Now, while I may have loved this as a child (I had no idea about the anchovies), I lost my love for mayonnaise post adolescence (with the exception of egg salad sandwiches) and swiftly replaced it with an unadulterated love of soured cream. So, with an an unstoppable desire to feature this sauce at virtually every meal, I had to do a little research and make a few changes to retain the smooth texture without the mayo.
Alice Waters recipe in Chez Panisse Vegetables (one of my treasured bibles) trades mayonnaise for avocado and olive oil, which works well, but was not quite creamy enough for me. After a bit of tinkering and a little soured cream I achieved what I considered to be a perfect dip/dressing. Personally I prefer it a little thicker as a dip. As a dressing it drowns those delicate salad leaves that I love at this time of year, but it works extremely well with sturdier endive (chicory) or gem lettuce.
So, go ahead. Make it. And visualise your inner goddess wearing a kaftan, martini in hand, dipping a caulilfower floret in this luxurious dip at a dinner party circa 1981.
Green Goddess Dip
Feel free to play around with the herbs depending on what you are serving. Tarragon and chevril feature in the original recipe for the dressing, but some others used corriander or mint. Tailor it to your taste!
If you want to use this as a dressing rather than a dip or a sauce, add 60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil when blending the ingredients.
6 sprigs parsley
6 sprigs basil
10 chive stems
6 sprigs dill
30g (1 cup) watercress
1 clove garlic
2 spring onions
2 anchovy fillets
1/2 ripe avocado
60ml (1/4 cup) soured cream
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp white wine/cider vinegar
salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil to taste
Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree. I prefer to use a blender as I find it chops the herbs more finely. It does not have any affect on the taste - it is merely a visual bias.
Taste and add salt, pepper and olive oil to taste.