Monday, June 30, 2014

California Special Green Salad, Good Housekeeping July 1950

Tonight we had one of our favorite summer dinners- hamburgers on the grill, corn on the cob, salad, and watermelon.  (Yes, after much anticipation watermelon season is upon us!)  For our salad I made the "California Special" from my July 1950 issue of Good Housekeeping.

The California Special is what I'd consider a typical 1950's salad in that the dressing is made on the salad in the kitchen then served family style at the table..  It's a communal salad- not a "pick your own dressing" modern salad with 2-3 bottles of dressing cluttering the table and a bowl of optional croutons.  It's another example of how cooking in the past was sometimes easier, despite the lack of convenience foods and the microwave.  This was before we Americans adopted a "restaurant" mentality at home.  Back in the day everyone ate the same meal.  (And you liked it...or you went hungry.)  Much easier on the cook.  Even with today's "heat and eat" meals it takes a long time to get dinner on the table if one must make different meals for each family member.

Despite the convenience of a communal salad I don't like dressing served on a salad.  It makes the lettuce wilt and the leftovers soggy.  I suppose I'm spoiled by all the times I asked for "dressing on the side".  I think that movie "When Harry Met Sally" made it ok.  Seriously, has anyone in the past 20 years gotten flack from waitstaff for "dressing on the side"?

Onto our recipe!  Here's the original.

 Here's what I did:

1 Head of lettuce (any type you like or a box of mixed greens)
1/2C Green onions, chopped
1/3C Radishes, sliced
1/4C Fresh parsley, chopped
1 Chopped tomato
1/2C Olive oil
2T Red wine vinegar
1 Clove of garlic, chopped very small
1/2t Salt
1/4t Pepper
1/2t Savory  (or more- I added another dash)
2T Shredded parmesan cheese

Mix the lettuce and veggies in a serving bowl.  Put the oil, vinegar, garlic, herbs, spices, and cheese in a measuring cup or serving bowl.  Mix well.  Let guests/family members serve themselves being careful to give the dressing a good stir before topping their salad.

Here's the result:

The original recipe it says to rub a wooden salad bowl with garlic.  I suppose this is to give the salad a subtle garlic flavor.  I've tried it before and it's just not enough so I say just go ahead and use the garlic.  If you make the dressing ahead of time or have leftovers you'll notice the garlic flavor mellows a bit too.  

Hubby and I really liked the salad although hubby picked out the radishes.  None of the kids liked it which surprised me as they usually happily eat salads.  The parsley threw off my son and the girls thought it had too much vinegar.  Odd because I wanted more vinegar.  I'm thinking they didn't mix the dressing enough before putting it on their salad.

This is a good basic dressing recipe to be used on any greens and veggies.  You could use different cheese or herbs too.  With all the options at the farmers market (My son and I went this weekend for the first time this summer.  So many choices!)  I know I'll have fun changing it up with what I find.  I hope this inspires you to experiment and enjoy all the veggies that summer has to offer!



  1. I'm chuckling because my sister, Jan, is over on Facebook just gushing about how our grandmother used to make salads like this in the 60s and 70s. But for The Mister and me, this is a "normal" salad because it is the kind we ate when we were growing up in California (I don't know if this means that Jan doesn't eat salads anymore or just eats the fancy-schmanzy ones in restaurants).

    I'm with you...I prefer to have the dressing on the side. One thing I learned from my vintage cookbooks is how very basic the dressings used to be--some oil, some vinegar, and some seasonings. I wonder if the advent of bottled dressings led to the more complicated dressings. (I remember an old commercial, "Who made the salad?" "Me and Seven Seas salad dressing!")

    There was a Perry Mason episode where Della was preparing a meal at Perry's apartment for Perry and Paul (we won't ponder too deeply about the implications of that image...). Anyway, I remember "she" made a beautiful salad similar to yours. To this day, I try to recreate it because it looked so glamorous. And now I have to live up to YOUR salad, too!! (oh, the humanity!)

    One final thought...mebbe the kids would have preferred a "congealed vegetable salad?" *laugh*

  2. Dr. JA- I remember that Seven Seas commercial- but no the Perry Mason. Don't feel like my salad is something to "live up to". It was really so simple. I think the vintage salad bowl I used really set off the salad.

    I love homemade dressings. I think things got more complicated when hosts and restaurant waiters started making salads entertainment by making the dressing at the table. Then the bottled dressings took over.

    Regarding congealed salads- I thought about it but then I hate to waste food, which is what would have happened. There's a recipe for shrimp Jello salad on my FB page. lol

  3. I relate to having to deal with the restaurant mentality at home. Ugh. I often wonder how four people have such differing opinions about food? And, I know I certainly didn't grow up in a home with mealtime options. But you're ahead of me because I'm still trying to get my kids to eat salad.
    This recipe looks really yummy, though, and as I happen to love salad (one out of four), I'll be trying it soon. Thanks for the post.

    1. Thanks for reading, Mrs. Smythe! I didn't grow up with meal time options either. Mt dad used to ask, "What is this, a restaurant???" when my brother or I would complain about dinner.

      I hope you enjoy the salad!


  4. Love the salad. Was thinking of the garlic before you mentioned it! Great minds think alike...

    1. Good to know it's not just me. Seems like the rubbing the bowl with garlic is to make the housewife feel like a "chef". Haha…


  5. Love the sound of this classic garden salad. It reminds me a lot of similar ones that my paternal grandma often made, frequently with items all plucked from her own backyard garden, when I was growing up. A great deal of her recipes were squarely from the 50s-70s, the era during which she, as a young homemaker, raised her family and I think that they went a long way in imparting a perpetual love for the foods of the era in me. I'm going to modify this salad slightly (just skipping those ingredients I can't eat due to medical reasons) and whip it up this weekend. I'm really looking forward to it - thank you!

    Have an awesome 4th of July!
    ♥ Jessica

    1. I hope you enjoyed the salad, Jessica!

      I would love to grow everything needed for a salad but I'm just not ready to take on an edible garden yet. Too much else going on. Your grandma sounds wonderful!

  6. I think your kids should start their own blog about what you serve them for dinner. I'd read it. : )

    You make an excellent observation about the restaurant mentality! I hadn't thought of it that way.

    1. Averyl, I'll share your idea with the kids!