In my quest to add interest to my catered salad bars, I took inspiration from a recipe for Green Bean Salad in The New York Times Cook Book 1961 (below). After tinkering with this recipe for several years, I came up with a dressing that is jazzy and delicious. This salad is served cold after marinating several hours or overnight, so it is a great summer salad and/or side-dish especially when serving Italian food. Enjoy!
Below is my interpretation of this “lost” recipe. I call it Marinated Green Bean Salad:
Wash and snap one pound of green beans.
Combine dressing ingredients.
Boil green beans four minutes.
Arrange cooked green beans in an air-tight container.
Salad can get a bad rap. People think of bland and watery iceberg lettuce, but in fact, salads are an art form, from the simplest rendition to a colorful kitchen-sink approach.~Marcus Samuelsson
One of the earliest and definitely the largest salad bars ever featured appeared regularly in an American food restaurant in Chicago called R J Grunts beginning in 1971. The restaurant boasted forty different ingredients in their salad bar at any one time. Inspired by the health food craze of the 1970s, it was a virtual self-serve farmer’s market on a plate with most ingredients presented in their rawest form. This restaurant sparked the salad bar trend that swept the nation. And oh how we Americans love a good salad bar, so much so, that we have come to expect one in every restaurant and grocery store — the bigger the better; however, no one has done it as well as R J Grunts. Many small restaurants have tried to stay on trend by offering run-of-the-mill iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, pickled beets, shredded carrots, boiled eggs, frozen peas, croutons and shredded cheese, but a great salad bar is what Americans have sought after for fifty years. Sadly, covid19 has taken away the option of even eating out safely. One wonders if the American salad bar, as we have come to know it, will ever return.
Cookbook Lady’s Comments
As a caterer, one of my underlying challenges was creating ways to jazz-up my salad bar offerings without breaking the bank or creating an overwhelming workload. I never came close to offering forty options, but I did come up with a variety of ways to add flavor and interest to a salad bar. Over the course of my next several posts, I will be sharing some of my most popular “salad bar” recipes that will also work well for jazzing-up family meals, so check back often. Enjoy!
It turns out that home cooks have been preparing corn on the cob the same way for over a hundred years. Our pots are now stainless steel as opposed to cast iron, and our heat source is gas or electric instead of wood, but no matter the style of our stove, Americans still enjoy eating an ear of corn, piping hot and slathered with butter.
My one-hundred-year-old cookbook, Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners 1913, suggests preparing sweet corn using the tried and true method of dropping the husked ears into rapidly boiling water and cooking for five to ten minutes. This is the technique that I have used for years (recipe below) — simple and hassle free.
Have the water boiling. Remove the husks and silk from the corn and drop them at once into the boiling water; bring water quickly to boiling point and let boil rapidly five to ten minutes (depending somewhat on age of corn). Drain from water and arrange in a napkin-covered platter; serve at once.
Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners by Elizabeth O. Hiller, 1913
Freshness and Tenderness
When buying corn on the cob from a grocery store, its hard to know how long ago it was picked. Fortunately, good cookbooks offer tips on how to tell if the corn is fresh. The Modern Family Cook Book 1953 suggests popping a kernel (recipe below):
Choose the freshest corn possible. To test freshness and tenderness of corn, break a kernel with your fingernail. If the milk spurts out, the ear is young, tender and at least fairly fresh. Corn is best when cooked immediately after picking. Husk the corn and remove the silks. Have plenty of boiling water ready. Put ears of corn into a kettle and pour on enough boiling water to cover. Boil 4 to 6 minutes, depending on age and tenderness of ears. Drain thoroughly and serve immediately with salt and plenty of butter.
The Modern Family Cook Book 1953 by Meta Given
Food Tastes Better Outdoors
The original Weber kettle grill came out in 1952. By then America had recovered from the food rationing and shortages of WWII and outdoor grills offered a new way of cooking the recently available choice cuts of meat that folks had done without for so long. Backyard outdoor grilling took off like wildfire and we have never looked back! Right away cookbooks began to reflect this new trend, offering recipes and tips for cooking outdoors.
Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook 1959 gives instructions on two ways to cook corn on the cob outdoors — on the grill or directly in the coals (recipe below):
Remove silk from corn by turning back husks [do not break off the inner husks]. Replace inner husks. Place corn on grill, turn often. Roast about 15 minutes. Serve with plenty of butter, salt and pepper.
If desired, corn can be husked. Spread corn with butter, sprinkle with salt. Wrap in foil. Place over hot coals about 10 to 15 minutes; turn several times.
Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook 1959
Iowa Corn on the Cob
Farm Journal’s Busy Woman’s Cookbook 1971 quotes an Iowa woman offering tips for preparing corn on the cob. First she suggests a way to get rid of the corn silk, then she shares two different cooking methods — the traditional drop-the-ears-in-boiling-water method, and secondly, starting the corn on the cob in cold water. I have never tried this method, but I’m definitely interested in trying it. Finally, she warns the home cook to never salt the cooking water for corn as it toughens the kernel. Dang! I am guilty of that. I will never salt my corn water again.
An Iowa woman says, “Most good cooks in our neighborhood rush the corn from the garden, husk it; use a dry vegetable brush to brush away the stubborn silk, and drop the ears into boiling water to cover. They cook it 5 to 8 minutes — never more than 10. But I get more praise from folks around the table when I cover the corn with cold water; bring it to a boil — then drain the steaming ears and serve them at once. No smart country cook around here adds salt to the water when cooking sweet corn. It toughens the kernels.”
Farm Journal’s Busy Woman’s Cookbook 1971
Milk and Sugar
In the cookbook, Mrs. Witty’s Home-Style Menu Cookbook 1990, Mrs. Witty offers some up-to-date advice and suggests an energy efficient way to cook corn on the cob. She also mentions a couple of interesting add-ins (recipe below):
If corn is not to be cooked at once, refrigerate it without husking. Shuck the ears just before cooking.
Don’t heat a big potful of water, which takes time and fuel and overheats the kitchen; boil a few inches of water in a wide pot, add corn, sprinkle on a little sugar — 1 or 2 Tablespoons — clap on the lid, bring the water just back to a boil, turn off the heat, and leave the corn for 8 to 10 minutes, when it will be ready. Serve one round of ears at a time; the rest will come to no harm if left in the water for as long as a half an hour.
Some cooks salt the cooking water — I don’t, because it toughens the corn; some swear by a cupful of milk in the water, and some use milk plus salt or sugar. Whichever way seems best to you, just don’t cook corn to death, as was once considered necessary; half an hour’s boiling was a common direction in cookbooks gone by.
Mrs. Witty’s Home-Style Menu Cookbook 1990 by Helen Witty
Cookbook Lady’s Comments
If there is one thing that I have noticed when catering casual summertime meals, it is that many people are a little shy about tucking into a long hot ear of corn on the cob; it seems like a big messy commitment to them. However, a three inch piece of corn on the cob seems much more manageable even to the most dainty person. So cutting the cob into thirds or fourths with a heavy sharp chef’s knife will help to alleviate their hesitancy. The cutting is done before the cooking so the corn comes out of the pot “bite-size”. Extra napkins and perhaps some toothpicks on hand helps reduce any awkwardness that guests might feel.
As far as seasoning corn on the cob, I have learned that there are other ingredients that folks enjoy besides butter and salt and pepper, although those are the most popular. Mayonnaise, in place of butter, is very popular in some areas and is my personal favorite along with salt and pepper. For those who like a little heat, chili powder, smoked paprika and lime or other flavored seasonings sprinkled on corn (or any vegetable) offers a spicy Tex-Mex flavor that some folks like.
My best advice is to serve corn on the cob often during its peak season. Enjoy!
“For those who wonder why cabbage is way out in front as the American vegetable crop, the answer is a…four-letter word: slaw.”~Irma Rombauer The Joy of Cooking 1985
In the 1600s Dutch colonist settled in the new world on the east coast of what would become the United States. Dutch holdings included part of what is now New York state where industrious immigrates planted cabbage along the Hudson River from seed brought with them to this new land. They also brought along their recipe for “koolsla”, a salad made from finely chopped cabbage, dressed with a vinegar dressing. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Interestingly, New York is still one of the top five cabbage producing states in the U.S. including Florida, California, Texas and Wisconsin. In 2016, these states produced over 1.8 million pounds of cabbage with nearly half of that being processed for slaw. Indeed, Americans have fully embraced coleslaw, often pairing it with another iconic American tradition — barbecue. Our summer picnics, cookouts and barbecues have even elevated coleslaw from a side dish to a condiment. Who doesn’t love a pulled pork sandwich piled high with cool crunchy slaw?
With cabbage having such a long history in America, it doesn’t come as a surprise that twentieth-century cookbooks contain a host of coleslaw or cabbage salad recipes. Recipes from the turn of the century were a simple combination of chopped cabbage tossed with a boiled dressing containing vinegar, a little sugar, salt and pepper, an egg and cream, but by the 1930s, things started to get interesting. Slaw makers began experimenting with the addition of fruit, assorted vegetables, seasonings and a variety of dressings. Some of these additions are still enjoyed today. Others have gone by the wayside, thankfully.
Coleslaw in the Thirties
Irma Rombauer, author of TheJoy of Cooking 1931, suggests adding green peppers, apples and celery to shredded cabbage for added flavor and texture. She offers two options for dressing — a French (vinaigrette) dressing or Boiled dressing. Ever practical, Ms. Rombauer offers some advice to home cooks preparing slaw as well, suggesting an improvised tool for chopping cabbage: [Place cabbage in] “a deep bowl and [use] the sharp edge of an [empty] baking powder can” [to chop the cabbage]. This homemade tool is something similar to the hand choppers we use today (EXAMPLE). Her Cole Slaw recipe also advises home cooks to soak the chopped cabbage in ice water for an hour to crisp it. Thankfully, today’s refrigeration makes this step obsolete.
The cookbook, Modern Meal Maker 1939 continues the creativity with several interesting ingredients as well. The first recipe simply titled “Coleslaw” calls for some chopped fresh mint “for an especially nice cooling salad,” to be dressed with Cream Salad Dressing (recipes below):
The second Modern Meal Maker recipe is similar to the Joy of Cooking 1931 coleslaw recipe calling for chopped apple and celery, and is also dressed with Boiled Dressing (recipes below):
The final Modern Meal Maker recipe appears to be a carry-over from the pineapple food fad of the 1920s called “Pineapple Slaw”. The recipe simply consists of a half cup crushed pineapple added to three cups shredded cabbage and is dressed with Golden Dressing, which incorporates the tropical flavors of pineapple, orange and lemon juice (recipe below):
Coleslaw in the Forties
“Cabbage Carrot Salad” appears in The Household Searchlight Recipe Book 1944 calling for an ingredient that is common in coleslaw today — shredded carrots — and a mayonnaise dressing, also common today, with orange sections for garnish (recipe below):
The recipe for “Cabbage Apple Salad” calls for chopped apple, of course, along with celery, green pepper, nuts and tomato to be dressed with Russian Dressing (a combination of mayo, chili sauce and chopped green pickle). With the help of pinking shears, a hollowed out head of cabbage, an unpared red apple and a stalk of celery, this salad makes a stunning presentation to be sure (recipe below):
Once again, pineapple shows up in “Cabbage Pineapple Salad” accompanied by an unusual ingredient — marshmallows. What?! Perhaps they were added to entice the children to eat their vegetables (recipe below):
Coleslaw in the Fifties
A coleslaw recipe appearing in The Modern Family Cook Book 1953 titled “Farm Style Cole Slaw” offers the most minimalistic cabbage salad recipe by comparison, simply calling for three thinly sliced radishes to be added to three cups shredded cabbage, and a mayonnaise dressing.
Another recipe called “Vegetable Slaw” contains shredded cabbage and carrots, sliced celery and minced onion lightly tossed in a dressing made of mayo, mustard and peanut butter. Yes, peanut butter!
The Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook 1959, in the section titled “From Field and Stream” is a recipe with a long name, “Coleslaw to Serve with Fish and Game”. Its not the ingredients that make this recipe interesting, its the recipe immediately preceding the coleslaw recipe that captures ones imagination — Roast Racoon, seriously!
This post would not be a thorough representation of twentieth-century recipes if I did not include a gelatin-enhanced cabbage salad. Again The Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook 1959 provides an interesting example called “Slaw with Mustard Mold”. The slaw is a combination of shredded cabbage, chopped salted peanuts and diced pimientos dressed with a French (vinaigrette) Dressing. The Mustard Mold, meant to crown the top of the cabbage salad, is a cooked mixture of unflavored gelatin, water, sugar, dry mustard, vinegar and eggs. The mixture is cooled and allowed to partially set, at which time whipped cream is folded in and the whole concoction is poured into a mold and chilled until firm. To serve, the slaw is layered on a platter with the mustard gelatin perched on top. A tasty addition to any potluck, I’m sure.
Coleslaw in the Sixties
In The New York Times Cook Book 1961, Craig Claiborne published a recipe titled “Cole Slaw with Caraway”. This understated combination of chopped cabbage and minced onion is tossed with a simple mayonnaise dressing seasoned with lemon juice, caraway seeds and salt and pepper. Claiborne even offers a helpful tip to home cooks, “blend the mixture well with the hands”.
About the same time Claiborne’s cookbook went on sale, McCormick–Schilling, published their recipe for “Caraway Cole Slaw” in a charming booklet titled “Let’s Eat Outdoors”:
Coleslaw in the Seventies
Farm Journal’s Busy Woman’s Cookbook 1971 offers two recipes with an ingredient that has not been mentioned yet — raisins. I like raisins, but the inclusion comes as a surprise as the popularity of these dried gems has declined throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. Today raisin producers have had to return to the advertising drawing board to try to generate interest and bolster declining sales.
The first recipe, titled “Cabbage Salad Bowl” calls for raisins soaked in orange juice, cabbage and shredded carrot. To me, this sounds like a recipe worth trying (recipe below):
The second Busy Woman 1971 recipe, one with an intriguing name, “Carolina Autumn Salad” contains what are almost classic coleslaw ingredients at this point — cabbage, apples and celery, along with a half cup seedless raisins. This is another recipe I would be willing to try (recipe below):
Bringing us full circle is a recipe from the Joy of Cooking 1985 edition, calling for yet another unexpected fruit to go with the cabbage — green grapes. However, its the dressing that really gets a makeover. Starting with whipped cream, the following ingredients are folded in — lemon juice, celery seed, sugar, salt and pepper and slivered blanched almonds. I’m not sure about this recipe, but how can anything with whipped cream in it be bad?
I’m tossing my favorite coleslaw recipe into the mix. Its a simple combination of cabbage and apples, but my grandmother’s Poppy Seed Dressing takes this slaw to a whole new level. It is sweet and it is sassy, and it is a crowd pleaser. Mix some up for your next barbecue. You will be glad you did. Enjoy!
2 apples, shredded or julienned (Honeycrisp apples have thin, tender peels)
Poppy Seed Dressing
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp Colman’s dry mustard
1 tsp poppy seeds
Using a blender or immersion blender, pulse dressing ingredients until mixture begins to emulsify; set aside.
Shred apples using a box grater or mandolin. Toss apples with shredded cabbage in a large bowl. Drizzle with half the prepared Poppy Seed Dressing; toss to coat. Add more dressing if needed. (Remaining vinaigrette makes a great fruit salad dressing).
Garnish slaw with apple slices and additional poppy seeds. Refrigerate until ready to serve.