September 28, 2016
The autumn breeze was in full swing this morning. The wind chimes were singing and I could vaguely hear the rustle of the top branches of our big pin oak tree on the front lawn. There are a few lonesome roses and crepe myrtle blooms still hanging on to the last warm days of summer and the sky was a glorious bright blue that only happens when the clouds are gone and high-pressure sets in. It is going to be a day that we get too few of here in the Memphis area—brilliant blue sky with morning temps in the high 50s and afternoon temps in the low 80s—perfect!
Although it is now autumn, the clear, crisp breeze and sunshine this morning made me crave a salad—a chef’s salad with homemade dressing to be exact. I always think of my dad when I make this salad. Mom was the family cook and disliked anyone else invading her territory. Daddy was a cook while serving in the armed forces during the Korean conflict and generally didn’t venture into our kitchen other than to eat. He was off work for several weeks recovering from back surgery when he first whipped up this dish for us.
I remember when I was in elementary school, probably in 3rd or 4th grade or so, a group of children was discussing their daddy’s war accomplishments during recess one day. One’s dad had a purple heart; another kid's dad had some other kind of impressive medal, and so on. I did not know what my daddy did while in the service but knew it must be something magnificent. I couldn’t wait for him to get home from work that day to ask him.
During supper that evening, I asked him if he received any medals while he was in the service. His response was that my mom was pregnant at the time he was called to service and that he could have been deferred until my brother was born, but decided to go on and report rather than wait. One evening he was on leave visiting my mom before shipping out. Shipped to where I am not sure, but I assume it was to Korea. Their house was in the country and there was little if any streetlight so he guessed that his ride couldn’t find the house or by-passed it somehow. Anyway, he was late returning to duty. As a result, he received KP duty. He said he was determined to be the best possible soldier in that kitchen that the service had ever seen. He talked of polishing his shoes so “you could see yourself” in the shine. He could sew and used this talent to tailor his military uniforms to perfection. Cleanliness was important to my dad but was paramount to the success of the military kitchen so he made sure everything, including him, was spotless. He talked of the military providing only the best for our soldiers. He talked of using the best knives and preparing some of the best food he had ever seen. He talked of how much care and work was involved in meal preparation. I felt as though I was in that military kitchen with him. I could just visualize him and his crew up early, all shined to the nines, working to peel and chop vegetables, bake meat and create delicious, wonderful-smelling desserts. You name it and I could see it happening in that kitchen under his command!
Upon returning to school the next day, I was excited to share the wonderful achievement of my dad’s with the other kids. Only, it didn’t go the way I thought it would. I was made fun of for thinking that kitchen duty was on par with someone receiving a medal. Those kids had lots of fun poking jabs at me, but I didn’t care. My dad was the smartest, bravest man I ever knew. He still is. He passed away from this earth 13 years ago but not from our hearts and minds. There he will live forever.
We are a family who enjoys ranch dressing just as much as the next family and it is a staple in our fridge. Some days, though, we need a change. Maybe it’s because the seasons are changing—I don’t know but today is one of those days. This recipe is similar in some ways to thousand island in that is has a tomato/mayo base but I like it better. I hope you do too.
Daddy's Homemade Salad Dressing
1/2 of a 10.75 oz. can (1/2 cup) Tomato Soup
3/4 Cup Mayonnaise
1/4 Cup Creamy Dijon Mustard
1/2 Cup Olive Oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
1/2 Cup White Wine Vinegar or Pickle Juice (I used kosher dill pickle juice)
1/2 Cup Pimento Cheese
1 tsp. Garlic Herb seasoning (If you don’t have this, use 1/4 tsp. garlic powder and 1/2 tsp. onion powder and a ¼ tsp. black pepper.)
1-3 tsp. sugar (Start with a very small amount and taste. Add additional sugar to suite your taste) I used 3 packets of zero calorie sweetener (1 packet = 1 tsp sugar). My dad would not approve of substituting artificial sweetener for sugar but when my mom developed diabetes, I made this change and the dressing still tasted great.
There is actually only one step to this recipe. Put all ingredients in the bowl and mix. I used a hand mixer but a whisk would work just as well.
Okay, I know it doesn’t look too tasty here, but we need to give it a chance even though it isn’t beautiful. Please don’t judge this wonderful recipe solely on it’s looks.
I simply fried up some turkey bacon, boiled some eggs, and chopped some lettuce and carrots. I put them all together and added the dressing.
The sweet taste of the dressing really goes great with the saltiness of the bacon in the chef salad.