Mary’s Salad

In my hometown of Santa Rosa, California there are few people who don’t have a childhood memory involving Mary’s Pizza Shack. At Mary’s, there were a few things you could always count on. You knew you could get breadsticks to nibble while you waited for your meal. You also knew that in order to retrieve said breadsticks, you had to make a journey up to the counter where teenage guys were tossing dough rounds into the air (oh what a shame when that plastic breadstick bin was empty!). It was a given that you’d  run into someone you knew, and that there was always some sporting event on the televisions. And even though your Dad told you not to, you’d always fill up on the warm sourdough they’d bring to your table with the butter strategically placed under the loaf to soften it. And while the good pizza (great even) was also a part of the Mary’s equation, it’s the Mary’s House Salad I still go back for to this day while visiting.

The salad is a standard Italian American antipasti plate when I think about it: salami, mushrooms, beans, vegetables and a tiny mound of grated cheese to top it off. While some of my friends swore by ranch or raspberry vinaigrette, my heart always belonged to their tangy Italian dressing. I set out to find a recipe (I don’t buy the bottled stuff) for that dressing, and ended up creating my own. The salad recipe below is slightly tweaked from Mary’s original, but it still captures the same spirit.

Italian Dressing, My Way

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons of kosher salt

1 tablespoon dried parsley

2 tablespoons of fresh basil (cut in a chiffonade style)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2/3 cup of canola oil

1 tablespoon of water

Method

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a closeable ziplock bag. Take two tablespoons of the herb mix and place it in a bowl with the basil. Whisk in vinegar, oil and water. Put away herb mixture for later use.

My Mary’s Salad

3 cups of red leaf lettuce

1/2 cup of kidney beans

1/2 cup of canned beets

1/2 cup of canned green beans

2 very fresh tomatoes (I like Early Girls), sliced

3 large carrots, shredded

5 slices of salami, thinly sliced

1/4 cup shredded provolone or mozzarella

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

Mix together the vegetables and legumes in a large bowl, toss with  1/4 cup of dressing. Stir in the salami and top with shredded cheese, season to taste. Serves 2-3 people (with plenty extra salad dressing).

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