Sunday, March 05, 2006
Selmo's Salad Dressing
Left to right: Great Uncle Johnny, John Selmo, My Grandfather
This is more a tale of Pennsylvania than Florida...
A while back, in some good eats post, I casually mentioned my Mom's salad dressing. There were some requests for the recipe in the comments, so I checked with Mom to see if it was okay to share her recipe. Not only was it okay, but I got this neat picture and some more details on the family history that goes with this simple vinagrette.
First, true confession time...my mom is a Yankee. I know, it's a shocking revelation, but it's true. You can read about how that came to be in this post.
Mom grew up in tiny Glen Campbel, PA. It's a one street town in the western Pennsylvania coal country. When she was a little girl, an Italian immigrant (legal) named John Selmo became a boarder in her house. As Mom tells it, Selmo was living up the hill at the time, but was in need of a new place to live. One afternoon as he came trudging up the street, he stopped and spoke with my grandfather (the dashing young man on the right). Selmo asked if he could lie down on the couch and rest a bit.
My grandfather said yes. Selmo didn't leave for the next 6 years. He was not a freeloader, he worked, paid room and board, and shared some Italian cooking tips during that time.
Mom and Selmo got along great, did kitchen chores together, and most importantly...she listened when he told her how to make a good Italian dressing and spaghetti sauce.
This vinagrette, which we just call Selmo's ...as in, "Are we having Selmo's salad tonight?", is extremely simple. You need to remember this very important fact however...YOU MUST SALT THE SALAD. You simply can't skip this step and expect it to taste right. I've listened to numerous women tell my mom, " Peggy, I tried that salad dressing recipe, but it just doesn't taste like yours." To which, my Mom will always ask, " Did you salt the salad first?" Usually, they forgot that step.
Okay, get your big salad bowl full of whatever you consider to be a tossed salad. Now follow this recipe.
Disclaimer: This dressing is so second nature to me, I never measure anything in it. I am estimating amounts.
Selmo's Salad Dressing
Vinegar ( I like red wine vinegar, but cider and balsamic fit too)
Salt, but not in the dressing.
1) mince a nice fat clove of garlic. Add it to your cruet.
2) pour in about a half cup of vinegar
3) add a teaspoon of tarragon
4) add a tablespoon of basil
5) add about a cup of olive oil...generally a two to one ratio with the vinegar...but you can adjust to your individual tastes.
6) shake the hell out of it and let it sit and meld
7) SALT your salad generously.
8) Give the dressing another good shaking, dump it on the salad, and toss thoroughly.
That's it. You can adjust it all you want, it's very forgiving.
We eat it at least 3 times a week.
If you try it and like it, give John Selmo a toast.
It's his legacy.
Posted by R.Powers at 7:00 AM