Super sneaky salads: My simple ice-berg & salmon salad

by cookingbrains09

salmon iceberg salad
Another week, another salad. I had this plate full of awesomeness once a few years ago in Italy and then forgot about it. Back then I had just managed to sneak my way into an exchange-programme to Rome and found myself sitting at a table in a dining-room hanged with Renaissance drawings of flowers and herbs. On the table there was a large plate of the crispest ice-berg salad, topped with smoked salmon, a bowl of freshly shaved parmesan and a silver gravy boat, filled with the lightest dressing. Now, even if you don’t have a real silver gravy-boat and don’t employ a weekday’s in-house chef to serve it to you, my simple ice-berg and salmon salad will bring divinity to you plates and palates.

I have a passion for salads. I guess I can’t deny that. If you love salads as much as I do, you might want to have a look at the salads I have posted so far:

While they might be all deliciously different, my salads were pretty uniform when it came to the dressing. I like light dressings, sharp and poignant – a bit of sizzling lemon juice or some sharp lime perhaps and a delicious olive oil, that’s usually all I need. But sometimes, I yearn for something a bit more luscious, for something that is maybe a bit less lean and a bit more luxurious. And what would be a better accompaniment to a soft and smooth piece of smoked salmon than a velvety mayonnaise based sauce. Now I agree, mayonnaise is a horrible thing and there is nothing worse than a bland pasta or potato-salad loaded with cups and cups of some store-bought stuff, that tastes like something you would grease your car with. But with a few extra-minutes you can make your own mayonnaise that will make all the difference – and you will probably never have store-bought again, ever.
The bitter truth about mayonnaise is that it is an emulsion of fat. It really is and there is no way around that. When scooping in spoon after spoon of mayonnaise you could just as well suck on a stick of butter or drink a cup of nice olive oil (I doubt that a lot of people go and eat mayo straight from the jar, but you never know – all the power to you). Light mayonnaise is a paradox, because as the term suggests it is a substance mainly consisting of fat that is very low in fat, and will most likely have some form of stabilizer (modified corn-starch or xantham gum) in the ingredients list alongside a substantial amount of sugar and artificial aromas to make up for the lack of flavour carrying fat. I think the desire to watch your calorie-intake is a noble and wise one, but substituting food with food-like substances, is not the best way to go, in my opinion. Of course, if you were eating mayonnaise from the jar on a daily basis things might look a bit different, but you are not. You are also not sucking on butter-sticks after lunch. So get over it, allow yourself a bit of the good full-fat stuff and just have less of it, rather than to eat double the amount of something half the fat.

Making the sauce

As I said earlier, mayonnaise is an emulsion of fat. I would love to go into more detail – but I wont. I will have a post on this at some point in the future, with diagrams and maybe a little comic – I will also talk about ways to substitute eggs and why they work – but again, not now. Be patient.

You will need:

1 fresh egg-yolk
good olive oil
some taste-less oil
sour cream

This recipe calls for one fresh egg-yolk, which will be the key to making this mayonnaise-based sauce. Egg-yolk contains a substance called lecithin which allows hydrophobic fats and lipophobic water to fuse together (okay, maybe a bit of food-science is necessary here). One yolk will be enough to bind more than 15 liters of oil, however you could use two to make the sauce a bit richer in taste.
Since the olive-oil is the main ingredient of this sauce, make sure to get yourself something high-quality. Cheap olive-oil is good for frying things, but will make your mayonnaise unpleasantly bitter and might add a metalic touch to it. The stronger your oil the more dominant the flavour, so it might be necessary to add a bit of a softener to it – I usually chose a flavourless oil. For one person I would use about a third to half a cup of oil. Make sure that both the oil as well as the yolk has about room temperature.

Add the yolk to a bowl and add about half a teaspoon of mustard to the yolk. Drip in one drop! of oil and stir til the drop is incorporated. Adding too much oil at a time will cause the mayonnaise to split – so be patient! After the drop is incorporated add two drops, stir, then four, then 6 to 8. The more oil you have added previously and incorporated successfully the more oil you can add later. The yolk will start to purn pale and the oil and yolk will fluff a bit. Let it thicken nicely.
Add a bit of salt, pepper and a few drops of lemon juice.
Add sour cream to the mayonnaise (about as much as you have mayonnaise) and give it a good stir.
Add in about half a teas-spoon of both horse-radish (or if you can’t get it pure horse-radish sauce) and honey. Stir.
Add water to the mix to make the sauce a bit more runny.
Done. (I expect you to adjust your the seasoning yourself. More pepper, less honey, more salt, more radish – whatever you think tastes best is best.)

Assembling the salad

Smoked salmon
Ice-berg salad
The sauce

  1. Take off the outer leaves of the ice-berg and half it. Rinse the halfs under cold water if necessary and chop coarsely, as to keep their crisp structure protected.
  2. Scatter some good-quality smoked salmon over the green.
  3. Chop some dill coarsely and scatter over the plate.
  4. Add some capers if you like, or leave them out if you don’t.
  5. Take a veggie-peeler or a sharp knife and shave some parmesan over the salad, use as much as you like.
  6. Drizzle over a generous amount of the sauce.

Eat and enjoy with a good crunchy baguette.