When I was in college, I lived with a family for awhile who opened their home to a few college students each year. Some of my favorite dishes (French Beef Stew) and kitchen tips (don’t throw out broccoli stalks, peel them and slice- yum!) I learned while living with them.
The mom would often make a special salad that she loved for lunch- usually just for herself – and me, if I happened to be around. It consisted of lettuce, crushed Frito chips (the only brand- you didn’t make the salad if you didn’t have Fritos), shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, and olives (though they were optional). It also had a can of beans with sauce- only one brand and I can’t remember the name (ugh, darn that age thing…), but I can remember that it had a tag line on the can that cracked me up:
This seemed quite old-fashioned (even back in the 80s) to me so I never forgot it. Plus- I don’t think she ever used the beans for anything other than her special lunch salad, so the poor husband was without his pleasin.’ I’ve seen these beans- they still sell them, but of course without the tag line, though they held onto it clear into the 1990′s, I believe. UPDATE: A reader (thanks, Holly!) alerted me to this article that describes the beans (they are now “Appetite Pleasin’!) plus has a recipe to make your own at home. Now I have to make this salad again!
Over all these ingredients she would pour a tomato based “French” dressing that she made in a blender.
Now, do I have to tell you how “out there” that was for me, a college student in the 1980′s? Didn’t salad dressings come from the store? Seriously, I think this was the first time I’d ever seen anyone make their own dressing (and pouring oil and vinegar over lettuce doesn’t count- that’s what odd people did at restaurants when there wasn’t a dressing they liked).
And I loved it. The dressing, the salad, everything. I wrote it down and though I haven’t made the salad in years, I still make this dressing whenever I’m in the mood for French dressing (I’m aware that this dressing is not truly French- the French use Vinaigrettes...anyone know why we Americans call this “French Dressing?”).
One thing that’s always bugged me, though about American French dressings is the amount of sugar included. My original recipe was less than some I’ve seen (some are equal amounts of sugar and oil, if you can believe it!), but still alot, plus it called for ketchup which has more sugar in it as well.
So I’ve adapted it by using tomato paste, a smaller amount of honey, and adding fresh garlic and Dijon mustard. The one thing I’ve kept is the fresh onions- I think they are the ingredient that makes it so, well, fresh tasting.
As with most dressings, this is ridiculously easy- put all the ingredients in a blender in whatever order you’d like and blend until smooth.
Yep, that’s it. It would take you longer to find it in the grocery store, I think.
It’s ready to enjoy in about five minutes. With tomatoes and onions in the dressing, and freshly picked garden lettuce, you’ve got a perfect simple salad. I also like to add olives and sweet onions and sometimes a sliced hard-boiled egg, too. And I know some people who like French Dressing on taco salads- which come to think of it, is very close to that salad I had in college.
Hmm, writing this has made me want to make that salad again, but with some of my plain cooked beans, and organic chips (lousy GMOs don’t let me enjoy Fritos anymore…).
Maybe it can become my special lunch salad (shhhh, don’t tell Brian).
Healthier American “French” Salad Dressing
- 3/4 c. olive oil
- 1/4 c. chopped onion
- 3 Tb. honey
- 3 Tb. tomato paste (you can freeze the remainder to use later)
- 1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/4 t. pepper
- 1 t. Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 Tb. water (to thin- add more or less to reach desired consistency)
- Add all the ingredients to the jar of a blender.
- Blend until smooth, adding water at the end until desired consistency is reached.
- Pour into a glass jar and refrigerate.
Makes about 2 cups