As a recipe, Green Goddess Salad Bowl is literally dreadful, in that I was dreading making it. This one includes avocados, crab meat, and anchovies. I’m including a photo of the recipe in this post so that you know I’m not making this up – not, in any way, shape or form, an endorsement of it. I do not recommend attempting this.
The dread, as it turned out, was well founded. The Jell-O component smelled foul while it was hot, and only slightly less so once it was firm. The color was a rather nasty mint green that clashed with the other green ingredients.
I had a fair amount of trouble on account of the ingredients, in particular the avocados. Since I’m not a hipster, I almost never eat or cook with avocados, and I was not up to the challenge of picking out ripe ones. I bought two, and one of them was so underripe and tough that I risked serious injury in separating the flesh from the pit. It was tough to cut, and tough to eat. The other one wasn’t as bad, but I had hoped to have at least a couple of decent avocados that I could salvage from the salad and turn into guacamole. I even bought a bag of lime tortilla chips, to which I turned for consolation at the conclusion of this recipe, sans guacamole.
The crab meat was another puzzle. That’s another thing I seldom eat and never buy. When I was growing up, crustacean shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp) were somewhat luxurious, and I just never acquired a taste for them. I was warned by a couple of people that crab meat is really expensive – and, indeed, real crab meat from the seafood counter is expensive. Luckily, the recipe calls for canned crab meat, which is much more reasonably priced, but there I was flummoxed by the three or four varieties. The most expensive is “lump” crab meat, and I probably should have gone for that, but “lump” just sounds unpleasant, so I got a couple of cans of the “fancy white”, which sounds much nicer. It turned out to be perhaps more suitable for making crab cakes. Live and learn…
Since a lot of the work of making this dish is in the assembly just before serving, I decided that I would save some time by making a “making of…” video rather than doing my face and hair, preparing the salad, and recording a whole separate video of me tasting it. (Also, frankly, I get tired of looking at my dopey face.) The results are mixed. I got Bryan to do the tasting for the video, and although he makes much better ugly faces than I do, he tasted that Jell-O with remarkable equanimity. It kind of psyched me into thinking that it wasn’t that bad. The first bite I tasted, which didn’t have a significant amount of anchovy in it, was on par with some of the nastier dishes I’ve made, so I tried another bite, with more anchovies. That one was so disgusting it made me gag, and I turned right around and spat it out into the sink. This was the first time in the Project that I’ve ever had to spit out a bite.
A few minutes later, I was ready to dump the whole thing down the garbage disposal, but when I switched it on, the garbage disposal made a feeble sounding whir and stopped dead. We’ve been living in this house for eight years and the garbage disposal has never failed before – but at the prospect of taking in Green Goddess Salad Bowl, it refused.
I think it’s safe to say this is the worst one yet.
This time around, to help out with the Harvey recovery in southeast Texas, a donation will be made to the Houston Food Bank.
As you might have heard, starting at the end of January, winter decided to come down on the Boston area with a vengeance. So, in accord with our Hipster Overlords here in Cantabridgia, I decided to be all ironic and make Florida Seacoast Salad.
I had been putting off making a scary Jell-O for far too long, and on the face of it this sounded like a relatively simple one. The Jell-O part is just diced shrimp suspended in lemon Jell-O that’s been tarted up with vinegar, salt and pepper. (There should be some garlic salt in there as well, but garlic salt is, I guess, too “white trash” an ingredient for Bryan to keep stocked in the kitchen – and I neglected to add it to my shopping list.) The rest is salad greens, chopped up citrus fruit, avocado, chopped scallions, and artichoke hearts marinated in Good Seasons salad dressing.
That last part, the artichoke, was a real trip down memory lane. First off all, when I saw “Bird’s Eye Deluxe Artichoke Hearts” on the list of ingredients, I was sure they couldn’t exist anymore. As someone with a part-Italian spouse, I couldn’t imagine artichoke hearts coming in any other format than in a jar packed in marinade. Imagine my surprise when we found the nine-ounce packages, exactly as required, in the frozen vegetables section of our local Star Market.
Then there was the Good Seasons dressing. For those of you unfamiliar with this food product, it’s a packet of powdered seasonings that you add to oil, water and vinegar to make salad dressing (as opposed to being lazy and just buying a bottle). When it was being heavily promoted in the 1970s and 1980s, you were supposed to buy a cruet that you could use to prepare your dressing, and although I’m not sure where one gets those cruets now*, the packet still has directions that tell you to add the ingredients up to this or that line on the cruet. Luckily, the directions also include amounts in case you don’t happen to have a cruet. I had a peanut butter jar. Peanut butter jars are not watertight, and I knew that because I shake soapy water in them when I wash them, but still, thanks to the lingering memory of the ads showing how much fun it was to make the salad dressing by shaking it up in the cruet, I couldn’t resist shaking the dressing in the peanut butter jar, with predictable results. Only after wiping up the oily droplets did it occur to me that I could have used a whisk.
See if you can spot Bryan Cranston in this vintage Good Seasons ad:
Otherwise, preparation involved a bunch of peeling and chopping of fruits and vegetables that had been stored in the refrigerator – not a process I would recommend to someone who, like me, suffers from Reynaud’s disease and is in the midst of one of the coldest and snowiest winters in recorded history. I’m not kidding around about the cold. In the downstairs zone, which includes the kitchen, our heating system has been struggling to maintain a temperature around 60°F/15°C as outside temperatures drop. No one can say I don’t suffer for my art.
Finally, it turned out that the dread was largely unwarranted. Both Bryan and I were surprised to find that Florida Seacoast Salad is not bad. The shrimp in Jell-O was almost okay, if only the Jell-O had been less sweet and/or more tart, and the rest of it was, well, a salad with Italian dressing. It ended up being our lunch, although I won’t lie, we didn’t eat the whole bowl of it, and a good amount of it got fed to the garbage disposal. A donation has been made to Action Against Hunger to get food that will not go to waste to people who really need it.
For a more in-depth analysis of Florida Seacoast Salad, I invite you to check out the video:
* A quick google shows that they’re available from Amazon and at Walmart, or if you want a vintage one you’re sure to get lucky on eBay.
Originally posted January 31, 2010
Nothing seems to be going my way lately. I really thought I was going to be able to get close to caught up over the last week and a half or so – and then last weekend I started to come down with gastroenteritis. Kind of ironic when you consider that, next to chicken soup, Jell-O is the ultimate American sick-room food, but over the past week I haven’t wanted to think about Jell-O, let alone eat it. I think as you read this blog entry, you’ll understand why it took me so long to write and post it.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as I embarked upon Jellied Avocado Ring. For one thing, I’m a little ambivalent about avocados. I find them confusing, fruit that tastes like a vegetable. I don’t eat them very often, and when I do it’s usually in the form of guacamole, with nachos. I just didn’t have a good sense of how well they would go with lime Jell-O, so I tried to be optimistic, and decided that this recipe could turn out to be okay.
So what did I do? I started myself off on the wrong foot by letting the avocados get a little overripe. (Like I said, I don’t know avocados very well…) Still, I soldiered on, buoyed by the idea that no matter how this turned out, I was going to plant the avocado pits and have four new friends like in the California Avocado Advisory Board ads I used to see in Seventeen magazine in the early 1980s. I mashed up the avocados as well as I could, and added them and a quarter-cup of mayonnaise to a quadruple batch of lime Jell-O that was salted and thickened. I started stirring:
This was a little discouraging. For some *ahem* unknown reason I was reminded of some drunken blow-outs kick-ass parties thrown by a certain C– W– that I had attended during my misspent youth. I kept stirring, sure it would get better. It didn’t:
Not only was the avocado just a little too chunky for this to be visually appealing, but also the mayonnaise would not be fully incorporated into the mixture and stubbornly remained in worrying little lumps. It began to dawn on me that this was going to be one of the more interesting Jell-Os to write about, and into the bundt pan it went.
Finally I had a Jell-O mold big enough for the bundt pan, and it had to be this one. I know what you’re thinking, so I’ll go ahead and say it – this came out looking like a green vomit mold. The real question was, would it taste like a green vomit mold?
I’m not sure how to describe the flavor. As I was eating it, it didn’t seem all that unpleasant, and yet I had to force myself to finish it. The lime Jell-O wasn’t too sweet. The avocado flavor wasn’t particularly objectionable, but the mayonnaise lumps were. As usual, none of it blended together at all well. The texture was a little creepy, maybe. It was difficult to imagine what place it could have in a meal. As Bryan put it, “This isn’t a 2 or a 3 [“nasties”, my old recipe rating system, not used in the reboot], this is a WTF.”
I’ll tell you what this reminded me of. Five years ago, I suffered an episode of idiopathic acute angle-closure glaucoma in my left eye. The condition is rare to begin with, and I didn’t have any of the common risk factors for it, so when it proved difficult to bring down the pressure in my eye, I was subjected to a battery of tests. One of them, ultrasound biomicroscopy, involved placing a sort of open-bottom cup on my eye (by fixing the lip of the cup under my eyelids,) filling the cup with saline solution, and running a vibrating ultrasound probe in the saline. (This generated some interesting pictures of the inside of my eyeball.) While I was going through it, it didn’t seem so terrible. I managed not to freak out, managed to stay calm even. My memories of it are not horrible. However, I never want to go through it again.
That’s sort of how I feel about Jellied Avocado Ring.
Despite my dictum against waste, I could not bring myself to eat any more of it. Luckily, I’ve come up with a rationalization for this. In my yoga classes, we’re told by the instructors that on the principle of ahimsa (nonviolence) we shouldn’t force ourselves to do poses that are uncomfortable or painful, that do us harm. I have decided that to force Bryan and myself to eat the nastier Jell-O dishes would be to cause us both to violate the principle of ahimsa – and, frankly, neither of our karmas can afford to take those hits.