The origin of the name for green goddess dressing is a four-act melodrama, written in 1921, about a trio of Brits surviving a plane crash in the Himalayas. They have to outwit their Asian captors, who intend to sacrifice the men to the Green Goddess and make a forced bride of the woman. You will not be surprised to learn that this play is rarely performed.
The dressing, created by San Francisco’s Palace Hotel to capitalize on the publicity of the play, has long outlived it. And given its origins, perhaps it’s better if we think of the Green Goddess as a bountiful harvest Mother Earth-type figure, rather than the embodiment of theatrical orientalism. The mixture of mayonnaise, parsley, chives, anchovy, tarragon, lemon juice and pepper — sometimes with other ingredients, such as avocado, thrown in — won popularity in the ’70s. Even though it has come and gone a few times since then, it occupies the same nostalgic place in people’s hearts as molten lava cake and fondue.
It’s back again.
“History has a way of repeating itself, I guess,” said Brad Deboy, chef at Elle in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington. “It’s kind of a universal dressing. And it’s very easy to make.”
Deboy’s riff is a curry green goddess, which he uses in a red gem salad covered in a crunchy mix of fried lentils, flax seeds and sesame seeds. His dressing is vegan, subbing in tofu for the mayo, and is accented with curry paste, mustard seed and cumin.
The famed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten makes a grilled shiitake mushroom dish with a green goddess that incorporates yuzukosho, a sour and spicy Japanese condiment, at his New York vegetarian restaurant, ABCV.
Others are sticking to the tried and true: The dressing tops grilled trout at America Eats Tavern in Georgetown. A Rake’s Progress in Adams Morgan uses it on a lobster toast appetizer, a nod to a lobster roll. “I didn’t realize that it was trendy, to be completely honest,” said chef Opie Crooks.
The dressing played a pivotal role in the second season of Netflix’s “Queer Eye”: The show’s food expert, Antoni Porowski, helped a guy put together a picnic for the night he would pop the question to his girlfriend. Porowski gave him a recipe for roasted cauliflower with a vegetarian green goddess, and the subject of their makeover dubbed it “vegetable candy.” “I’m copyrighting that,” Porowski replied.
Vegetable candy, indeed. “It’s almost like an elevated ranch dressing,” said Deboy. “With a way more fun name.”
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