Dress for Success

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Last week I went to a nice luncheon and had a salad. If you are thinking – and you probably are – there is nothing remarkable about that, well in theory you would be right, but don’t give up yet. What was actually a truly remarkable thing about this lunch was the salad dressing. The salad itself was a yummy version of a Cobb Salad and it was served with several dressings, all delicious, but one was exceptional – it was a beautiful red, tangy yet sweet, French Dressing. This was not your basic out of the bottle Wish Bone kind of deal; it was, in a word, marvelous. And yes, I had all of the dressings – it was a big salad. (Seinfeld reference)

Growing up I remember two versions of salad dressing we called French. The one my mother favored, (she had actually been to France so we trusted her) was simply a vinaigrette that she made with the addition of Roquefort cheese, which was quite tasty. The other was made with a “secret ingredient” at the time called catsup, fortunately somewhere along the line renamed ketchup. Ketchup is still the not so secret main ingredient, and French Dressing is much more wonderful when you make your own instead of buying it in a bottle with all of those weird ingredients added in.  Not only can you make this at home, you can turn your homemade version into another perennial favorite, at least in my house – Catalina, or Creamy French Dressing– by adding 3 Tbsp of mayonnaise. Add pickle relish to that and I think you might just have McDonald’s secret sauce. Dare I say the possibilities are endless?

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You can enjoy French Dressing on any salad, as a sauce for grilled fish, chicken, or especially a steak, it’s even good as a dip for veggies, but we have a favorite summer salad that we enjoy when tomatoes are first ripe until the end of September. After that we enjoy it – just not as much as with a summertime tomato. Any variation of this salad will do but here is my favorite: sliced tomatoes, use one kind or as many as you have available, sliced red onion, fresh tarragon (or basil – but tarragon seems so French!), capers, avocado slices are nice, but not essential, plus a small shaving of really good Parmesan, or a crumble of feta, goat, or blue cheese, makes the perfect garnish. 

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This is a great summer salad to serve to company, because it is best at room temperature, so it can just sit there minding it’s own business while you are busy entertaining. Add avocado and cheese right before serving. Drizzle the salad with your spectacular homemade French Dressing and top with a grinding of fresh pepper. Serve with something that you’ve just whisked off the grill, like shrimp or chicken, pour the wine – hopefully provided by a grateful dinner guest – and Voilà!  you have a perfect summer feast!

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Old Fashioned French Dressing

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1 cup ketchup

½ cup canola oil

½ cup sugar

½ cup apple cider vinegar

Juice of 1 lemon

4 Tbsp chopped onion (2 medium slices)

½ tsp garlic salt

2 tsp paprika

½ tsp pepper


Blend all ingredients together in blender or food processor until well combined.

Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Keeps 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator. (It will be gone long before then!)

(3 Tbsp mayonnaise blended in makes this a creamy French Dressing) 

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© Deer One Publishing 2018