Wine Trail - Cook's Edition

Pandemic Pantry - Cobb Salad

Nothing might define the current situation better than the Cobb Salad. As we write this we are at home (of course, unable to go to the supermarket, relying on curbsiding and delivery and basically not getting all the things we are used to, or thought we needed).

Cobb salad is named after the owner of the once-renowned Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles. Whether he, Howard Cobb, or someone else actually thought up the recipe is not known and doesn't matter. The heart and soul of the Cobb Salad is that you can pretty much make of it what you want. Generally speaking the base is a mixture of greens with roquefort and other 'stuff'.  The truth is maybe our version comes closer to a Crab Louie Salad, but in the end, for us, it's just what is on hand.

In any event, when WE say Cobb Salad we know what we'd like and most of it is on the easier to get spectrum of Covid-19 shopping. We paired our version of Cobb Salad, or rather, what we should probably call "Kitchen Sink" Salad with a really good Zinfandel and the match was outstanding. Scroll down for the wine we drank it with (as if you can't guess).

Horseradish


Because the original point of these essays is to try to convey something beyond a bare recipe, we now take up the matter of Armoracia rusticana. A large brownish root and in our experience, when shopping for it in the supermarket (oh for the day to return), the checker will not know what it is and will have to ask the next checker over if they know and what's the code to put into the register computer. A friendly 'it's horseradish' doesn't work in this SKU'd up world.

HOrseradish
Ignore the white rime on the root. We took it out of the freezer for this photo. Freezing isn't the best idea but it works for us

In hand it doesn't really smell like anything but just wait! Take a potato peeler to it and you start to understand the attraction (or dread). Remove the peel and grind it and take the brunt of its power. Enzymes in the horseradish feed on sinigrin to create allyl isothiocyanate (aka mustard oil), irritating the mucous membranes of the eyes and sinuses. It isn't 'hot' like a chile but your eyes will water.

To afficianados it is wonderful indeed. Some cultures like to grind it up with some beets, hence you'll find white horserash and red horseradish in some markets. One of the common brands in a relatively iconic little bottle is called "Atomic" for obvious reasons.

There is a wonderful relative of the horseradish called Wasabi. You know, the green stuff you think you are eating with sushi. They are both members of the family Brassicaceae.  Except that Wasabi is rare and extremely expensive. We've had it once. It also needs a particular climate to survive. Too hot and it will perish. Too dry and it will perish. Don't keep it slightly misted and it will perish. (All of this has not kept us from stupidly ordering one to go into an herb garden. It was planted a week ago. It looks ok now, but unfortunately it wasn't really something to try in our climate).

Perhaps it is all of the trouble and/or expense but maybe, compared to wasabi,  the lowly horseradish pretty much gets you to the same place and is all you need. In fact, take a look at the ingredients on packages that claim to be wasabi. the green powder (that you mix with water) or the tube with the green goo in it. You'll find horseradish, not wasabi.

And just what did you think was one of the key components of Heinz 57 Cocktail Sauce. Aha!

In any event we love horseradish. We are talking about it here because we use it in our salad with seafood, but it might work just as well with turkey or chicken.


Our 1000 Island "Style" Dressing


On the eastern edge of Lake Ontario, just where Ontario, Canada and Northern New York come together is an area called Thousand Islands. It was apparently there, around the turn of the 20th century, that 1000 Island Dressing was born (and we always thought it was because the bits of relish were like islands... guess not!). Look here for what may be the full story. Basically it consists of mayo, ketchup, pickle relish and hard boiled egg. About the same time Russian Dressing came into being in the resorts of New Hampshire. Called 'Russian' because at one time it may have contained caviar, it's mayo along with things like chili sauce, paprika, pimentos, Worcestershire Sauce and chives.

Without knowing the recipes for or derivation of either of these classic preparations for greens, we invented our own which turns out to be similar to both. In the end, both really are just Mayo and Ketchup with the additions of ones choice. Having now read all these histories we're thinking of calling ours Kuril Island Dressing. We leave it to the student to find out why.

Here's what we do for our version of an American red hued salad dressing...

Almost all the ingredients are optional. Of course you have to have ketchup and mayo... after that it's up to you.

Kuril Island Dressing
1000 Island Ingredients

Get a suitable jar. We like to use a glass jar that used to have pickle relish, mostly because when we get down to the end of the relish in the jar, we just make the dressing in the jar.

Put a few tablespoons of relish (more or less to taste, we tend to use a lot more) in the jar. Pour in about 1/4 cup of ketchup (more or less to taste). A few dashes of tabasco, a tablespoon or two of Worcestershireshire (more or less to taste),  a dash of nam pla (optional, anchovy paste if you got it, a bit, optional), about 2 tsp ballpark mustard. 2-3 TB of lemon juice/vinegar, a few TB of water to start. Mix. Add mayo till the jar is about 3/4 full. Mix again. Now it is again up to you. Do you like real thick dressing?  No? Add some more water and maybe some more mayo depending on how you like. Like REAL thick dressing, skip any added water and just add mayo to the point the jar is almost full. Leave just enough room so you can still mix it one more time.

You'll find you've made whatever this 'iconic' salad dressing is for far less money than the runny bottle of thin salad dressing from the market and it tastes at least as good, if not a whole lot better. You probably have most of the ingredients. And if you don't have mayo, you probably have an egg (but making homemade mayonnaise is another story).

For the salad recipe below we're adding horseradish. So, 1000 Island, Russian or Kuril? Invent your pleasure.

1000 Island

Cobb v Louis


No, not a Supreme Court ruling nor a heavyweight match, just two salads that have similar traits and somehow by sheer happenstance are the underpinnings of  a whatever you've got throw-together salad.

Cobb Louis
  • Iceberg lettuce, watercress, endive and romaine lettuce
  • Roquefort, or cheddar or Monterey Jack, or no cheese
  • tomatoes
  • bacon
  • chicken breast
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • avocado
  • chives
  • red-wine vinaigrette
  • Crab meat
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Tomato
  • Asparagus
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Louis dressing (mayo & chili sauce & more). or Thousand Island dressing or Green goddess dressing

So you see already you have lots of choices.  Which brings us to ....

Our Salad


The whole point of this recipe entry is to show you can have a really good salad with mostly stuff you have on hand, or in a pinch, of course, only with what you have on hand. There are so many choices... this is what we like. Use any or all!
Alternatives/additions

Ingredients
Bacon

Procedure


We like using large plates. Sometimes we put them in the freezer. Does it matter? Not really but it seems so much more like eating out?

Chop up the Romaine and cover the plate. In pie slice sectors lay down ingredients such as bacon, olives, cheese, green onion, tomatoes, avocado. In the center, mound your seafood. Sprinkle some lemon juice if using over the seafood (and wherever else you like. Grind black pepper all over it.

Combine as much horseradish as you like with as much salad dressing (see ours above) as you like. pour over the salad.

We realize that you might not have access to crab (and even we fudged here and used a rather expensive, but certainly not as good as fresh, 'canned' crab) or shrimp. And this IS about stuff on hand. If no seafood, skip the horseradish, and use what you've got!

Crisp up some sourdough and serve with the salad.

Sourdough
This homemade 1 lb 12oz. loaf would cost about $1.50 if you are using very expensive flour and about 30 cents if you can score (keep around and use) 50 pounds of bread flour!

Fancy? Not exactly. Hard, nope. Good, nope... it is really great and easy. Look, in a pinch, you could even use that Velveeta you bought when you thought there would be nothing you could get during these weird times.

Stay safe. Wash your hands.

Full Salad



Nalle Winery

Nalle Winery Squirrels

Zinfandel  We had the Nalle's Flagship Dry Creek Valley Zin, A wonderfully balanced wine that is never outlandishly high in alcohol. A wondeful food wine that matches really well with the mix of flavors in our Kitc... uh, Loui... uh, Cobb Salad.


Cheers!

Here is a summary of the recipe in a .pdf you can print