In 1923, a silent adventure movie called “The Green Goddess” was released. And San Francisco’s grand Palace Hotel debuted its own invention, the Green Goddess salad, at the same time. The salad has seen a resurgence in recent years — and for good reason. The velvety, decadent, herbaceous dressing is a suitable spring-season adornment to just about anything.
Now another San Francisco institution, Gayle Pirie and John Clark’s Foreign Cinema in the Mission district, is paying homage to the classic salad in the pages of their new “Foreign Cinema Cookbook: Recipes and Stories Under the Stars” (Abrams, $40). The book, due out May 15, celebrates the intersection of food, film and art in the same way their restaurant does.
Ready to build a better Green Goddess salad? Pirie has some tips:
“While romaine is traditional,” she says, “we prefer Little Gem lettuces for their attractive, compact heads of small, curly leaves that catch and hold the dressing.”
“We add creme fraiche to our version for its velvety tang. Sour cream is a good substitute, but it won’t have that ultra silky texture. We like to use both red wine vinegar and lemon juice to lend an acidic depth, heighten the herbaceous flavor and punch through the rich creme fraiche-mayo base. We often pair different acids (like that) in a dish for a complementary complexity.”
The finishing touches
Some people add avocado to the dressing for richness, she says, but if you’re going to use avocado, “We like to keep slices separate for clarity and to lend a textural counterpoint. And we like to add a bit of dill to play off of the other, more signature herbs.”
Here’s the Foreign Cinema version of the classic salad:
Little Gem Salad with Radishes, Pepitas and Green Goddess Dressing
Serves 4 to 6
Green Goddess dressing
½ cup basic mayonnaise (see note below)
1/3 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
¼ cup olive oil
1 small clove garlic
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, or more to taste
4 heads Little Gem lettuce
Pinch of kosher salt
6 red radishes, thinly sliced
¼ cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/3 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese
In a blender or food processor, combine all the Green Goddess dressing ingredients and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Taste and add more lemon juice and salt, if you wish. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
In a large bowl, separate the lettuces into individual leaves, crush the kosher salt over the leaves and toss them with enough dressing to coat them (you may not need it all). Arrange the lettuces on a platter or on individual plates and evenly distribute the radishes, pepitas and cheese over the top.
Basic mayonnaise: To make your own mayonnaise, pour 1 cup olive oil into a measuring cup you can easily handle with one hand, while whisking with the other. Place 1 egg yolk in a medium nonreactive bowl. While continuously whisking, add the oil drop by drop, incorporating each drop before adding the next. As the mixture thickens and emulsifies, begin adding the remaining oil in a slow, steady stream, continuing to whisk vigorously, until you have added all the oil. The mixture should be thick and glossy. Whisk in 2 teaspoons Champagne vinegar, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and 2 teaspoons water until fully incorporated. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Briefly whisk smooth before using.
— Gayle Pirie and John Clark, “Foreign Cinema Cookbook: Recipes and Stories Under the Stars”