This is a love letter to my ‘hood with a smidge of lettuce porn thrown in for good measure. Here it is, almost the end of February, and I’m still finding myself in a very romantic mood.
My husband, our two pooches and I are tremendously lucky to live in a very special neighborhood in the heart of San Francisco. We wake up every morning to beautiful views of the East, flanked by dog friendly parks on either end of our little drag and an eclectic collection of (mostly) friendly neighbors in between. A few of the aforementioned neighbors have become dear friends. They are intelligent and generous women who enjoy tequila as much as I do and are always down for an early evening tipple and some good-natured neighborhood gossip. We’ve also begun a tradition of hosting each other, usually just the girls, for delicious multi-course dinners in our respective homes. We’ve even been known to do a progressive where we wander from house to house enjoying a dish in each. Sometimes we show off our newest favorite recipes and techniques, other times we dig deep into old favorites rooted in our various backgrounds and cultures.
The deceptively simple recipe that I am sharing below was presented at such a dinner by one of my incredible neighbors who would prefer to remain anonymous. She’s not into social media or having a public persona… wha?! Just another one of our differences that makes her such a sane and compelling friend. This salad dressing, or “liquid gold” as I’ve decided it deserves to be called, was part of a very simple salad, served on the side, to accompany/cut through what I remember to be a flavorful and rich chicken paprikash, her signature dish. The paprikash was beyond delicious, but this breezy little salad of romaine lettuce and dressing totally stole the show. I’ll take a stab at describing the dressing – it’s very acidic, terrifically garlicky, quite salty and has an umami essence that was a total surprise. Turns out the “secret ingredient” is fish sauce, but not enough so that it tastes fishy.
According to my friend, who was kind enough to allow me to share her recipe, everyone who tastes it freaks out over this dressing as much as I did. It’s like crack even on just plain ol’ lettuce. This is where the lettuce porn comes in. I actually love the sweet taste of lettuce and I really love nothing than a simple salad of super fresh, crisp lettuce and good dressing. I think even an average vinaigrette can be quite tasty on really good greens. The objects of my lettuce affection in these shots, and my current go to greens, are the sweet heads of little gems on offer at Bi-Rite. They are so tender that they bruise quite easily, so if you decide to go there, toss them with care!
I’ve included a shot of the supplies in my pantry that I’ve been using to make this dressing, but my neighbor will be horrified when she finds out that I’m using “gourmet” fish sauce and not the authentic fish sauce with the crabs on the label that she buys at the asian market. She probably uses a different brand of vinegar too, which brings me to a point. With a recipe this simple (only 5 ingredients) and the potential variables for each ingredient, you should view this recipe as a guide but not as absolute law. Be sure to taste it with your greens of choice and make sure it has a balance that you’re happy with. For example, if my garlic isn’t particularly strong, I might add more. Also, be aware that this isn’t an emulsified dressing so it will separate. Just shake or whisk it before adding it to your lettuce.
Photos by moi, Lauren Godfrey