Springtime makes us think of Green Goddess salad dressing, colored pale green from the high proportion of fresh herbs.
Who was the eponymous green goddess? She was a deity, worshipped in her temple in a small fictional kingdom in the Himalayas. A small plane carrying three Brits crashes locally, and sets off the story (more about it).
The history of modern Green Goddess dressing places its origins in 1923, at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.
As the story goes, actor George Arliss was starring in a hit play called The Green Goddess.
The hotel’s executive chef, Philip Roemer, created the dressing to honor the play and the actor. It, too, became a hit.
The original dressing was a base of mayonnaise blended with anchovies, chives, parsley, scallions, tarragon, and tarragon vinegar.
It’s a variation of a dressing created by a chef in the kitchen of King Louis XIII of France, called sauce au vert (green sauce). Food historians note that the basic recipe is probably from the Near East and at least 2,000 years old. Roman legionaries brought it to Italy, from where it traveled to France and Germany (source).
Since the ingredients are common ones, numerous cuisines developed their own recipes for green sauce, or salsa verde.
As recipes evolved (or originated independently), cooks incorporated avocado, basil, capers, Dijon mustard, garlic, onion and Worcestershire sauce.
Some combine buttermilk with the mayonnaise. Others use a vinaigrette base instead of mayonnaise.
Some recipes, like the one used at Panera Bread, substitute yogurt for mayonnaise.
In the early 1970s, Seven Seas, a company that made salad dressing (since purchased by Kraft Foods), launched bottled Green Goddess dressing. It raised the awareness of Green Goddess nationwide, and spurred the many variations.
1. PLACE the egg yolk in a bowl and whisk in the 1/4 cup of the oil, a drop at a time, until the mixture thickens to mayonnaise.
2. PURÉE the parsley, watercress, tarragon, chives and garlic (plus optional ingredients) in a food processor. Add the lemon juice and ½ cup of the oil.
3. Whisk 2 teaspoons salt, herb puree, vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon pepper into the mayonnaise. Once emulsified, whisk in remaining ¼ cup oil in a slow, steady stream.