By Ryan McKay
Every year, I travel back to my homeland in California and take what we’ve dubbed the annual McKay’s male camping trip up to the Sierras to remember again what it is to connect with the land. Grandpa, dads, and sons all get together to make fire, hike up to waterfalls, and cook food like our ancestors. This year we returned again to the most famous valley in the world, Yosemite. Per usual, I was the culinary coordinator and tackled the menu inspired by my home state and all she has to offer.
When most think of California, they think of fresh produce, so my recent trip was driven by the mantra of healthy and green. I wanted to tap into this with my most recipe offering and develop a quick and easy salad dressing celebrating all things California. What I came up with was my version of the Green Goddess Dressing, equal parts herbaceous and balanced, this is the ultimate dressing designed to top anything needing a California kick.
To many, the word “grassy” means healthy, and tasteless; this is anything but. Make no mistake, there are notes of green through the watercress, parsley, tarragon, and chives, all providing their unique flavor profile and “grassiness.”However, acid is added through the champagne vinegar, fat from the canola oil, emulsion from the mayonnaise, bite from the garlic, sweetness from the honey, and seasoning from the S&P. All these ingredients help to round out the dressing so that the many enjoy it (instead of the few Californians who only eat veggies). Remember, a dressing should be a multipurpose tool, applicable to any dish to accent it. Think a wedge of lettuce, greens to top a sandwich, or a dressing for a grain bowl; this dressing should give you some solid California miles, indulge!
A few after the fire critiques: I ask for watercress but spinach will do as a substitute. Tarragon is the star in this recipe but cilantro will hold it’s water if you can’t find it. Mayonnaise is doing all the heavy lifting but sour cream or cream can be used in its place to help save calories. Know that you give up on emulsion factor though (FYI, fat = emulsion). Champagne vinegar can be substituted with sherry or tarragon vinegar as we are looking for a delicate vinegar so the herbs can star.
Parsley (1 Cup)
Watercress or Spinach (1 Cup, stemmed)
Chives (3 Tbsp.)
Tarragon (2 Tbsps., leaves only)
Anchovy Fillets (2)
Garlic (1 clove, minced)
Lemon Juice (3 Tbsp. or one large lemon)
Champagne Vinegar (1 Tbss. + 1 tsp.)
Canola Oil (½ Cup)
Mayonnaise (½ Cup)
Honey (2 tsps.)
Food Processor or Blender
Place all ingredients into the food processor or blender sans the mayonnaise and seasoning and mix until combined, 2 minutes making sure to scrap the ingredients down half way through. Add the mayonnaise, salt, and pepper and pulse until combined. Indulge!
Ryan McKay is a 13-year fire service veteran and a firehouse cook from Atlanta, Georgia. His goal is to bring the fast-paced lifestyle of the fire service with the slow-paced art of cultivating family and crew through the tool that is food. He has made an appearance on NBC’s primetime show “Food Fighters,” is a co-founder of the Metro Atlanta EMS Conference, and works intimately with the SafePath Child Advocacy Center.