Many cultures throughout the world serve a small vegetable plate or course as a beginning to meals a little of this or that including everything from chopped roasted eggplant served with Pita to varieties of curries or pickled selections among what is available or common to the region.
As a child, the most common salad served nearly every single night among mine, and most families where I lived, was the Iceberg Lettuce Salad. Do you remember it? Oh yes, long before low cal dressing, bacon bits, and croutons, each night before dinner it was one child in the families job to remove the outer leaves of that big ball of light green compact denseness before rinsing it and breaking it up into bite size pieces. Sometimes this salad got tomatoes, onions, or cucumbers. I’m pretty sure in my later years of high school my sister, Carolyn, was delegated this task, along with preparing the homemade salad dressing, also the same nearly every single night, called Russian Dressing. Am I taking you back in time now? Yes, Russian Dressing was rapidly prepared pretty much by mixing together a couple globs of mayonnaise into a bowl then shaking in enough ketchup to create the desired color somewhere between peach and pink.
In any event, the Iceberg lettuce salad with Russian Dressing was like a first course. Imagine how I could have laughed to the moon when higher end restaurants began serving Iceberg Lettuce Quarters in restaurants, only mostly topped with Blue Cheese Dressing. Still, at a pricey cost, I couldn’t help but think of the humor in a course that any of the children not only in my own family, but in the whole neighborhood could have made, even easier, since quartering doesn’t even require tearing the leaves into bite size pieces.
As for the Blue Cheese Dressing, I think it arrived with the invention of bottled dressing because real ‘Blue Cheese’ generally respected as an experience, was known as a wonderful cheese in which to try when the special occasion arrived, that is, if you could get past what it looked like, or smelled like as some said.
So while I’m reminiscing, let’s talk Caesar Salad. Now, the Caesar Salad was not one a person got at every restaurant topped with salmon or shrimp, or chicken. The Caesar Salad was the ultimate of salads, ordered only at the best of restaurants, an experience like eating Blue Cheese, whose dressing, using a real egg yolk, whipped up tableside on a tall table with an over sized wooden salad bowl, carefully rubbed with garlic around the sides and coating the bottom before the actual performance began.
Oh my goodness, I have completely missed the topic of this wonderful Radish Salad, so easy to prepare as a first course. You see the past couple of days I have been doing a lot of reflecting on so many good memories with my siblings, since my brother John and his wife Pat have just welcomed their sixth grandchild, the first of my niece, Micha, her new son, Benjamin. Texting with my brother yesterday got me thinking not only how blessed he is, but how blessed I am to have shared my childhood with one of the truly best individuals I have ever known, isn’t it amazing the bonding that can take place at the shared family table over a simple Iceberg Lettuce Salad with Russian Dressing? And so it is with a first course, fresh choices simply put together and with a little reflection, the possibilities are as limitless as the memories they can contain, even serving a new first course, Fresh Radish Salad.
- 1 bunch Radishes, sliced thinly then circles cut in half
- 3 Kirby or small Cucumbers, sliced lengthwise then chopped, seeds included
- 3 stalks Celery, sliced diagonally with a little bit of celery leaf attached
- 1 Mango, skinned, halved,cubed
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons Fresh Dill, chopped
- Optional Lettuce leaves or small fresh bunch as a Boston Bibb Lettuce for filling, and baby frisee served alongside salad
- 2-3 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons Grape Seed oil
- salt and pepper, seasoned to taste
- In a medium size bowl large enough to hold the vegetable ingredients and mango, add in the white wine vinegar and Grape Seed Oil then season with a little salt and pepper and stir briskly together with a fork. Add in the radishes, celery, cucumber, chopped mango and fresh chopped dill and stir all ingredients together well with the dressing. Serve. If using a lettuce leaf, arrange lettuce onto plate and top with Radish Salad. If using a few side pieces of baby lettuce as freesia, dip leaves across the dressing left in the bottom of the bowl from the salad then arrange alongside Radish Salad on plate.