It’s entirely possible that I am the only person on the planet that is indifferent to a Bloody Mary. I want to like them, I do, but for a person that doesn’t really care for tomato juice that’s a high hurdle to clear. Too acid, too sweet, too thick. Often they’re just not right and I’d rather drink something else. I will admit that sometimes I’ll find a good one that catches me by surprise. House-made mix with a good spicy kick and loaded with lots of “stuff”. A single sad celery spear doesn’t cut it. I want a fully loaded skewer of house-pickled hipster tidbits and one of those shorty Miller Hi Lifes on the side. It’s often the kind of Bloody Mary that costs 15 bucks and is typically found in trendy weekend brunch joints with 2-hour waits. What can I say? I like a drink that 14 people have put a lot of thought into. I can appreciate that.
Recently, I was twirling my straw in a Bloody Mary that was definitely not what I just described (a Bloody Nary?) I should have ordered a mimosa or just a beer. But it got me thinking … all the individual elements had potential. What if I turned the drink components into a salad dressing and put all the good garnishes into a salad? Once I got the idea of a Bloody Mary Vinaigrette into my head, it was stuck. I couldn’t possibly have realized it at the time, but that’s the moment when I started to hate this recipe.
It became my nemesis. It took 5 tweaks to get the recipe right, to achieve that balance of sweet, spicy, acid. I had to accept that the flavor is completely dependent upon on the quality of the tomato and that varied every single time. But that wasn’t my biggest problem. Where the challenge came in was with the photography. This salad was stunning and ugly at the same time. The bright orange vinaigrette is striking against the greens of the lettuces but you couldn’t tell that from the crap photos I took. U. G. L. Y. I kid you not; I made this recipe 5 times in 3 weeks and came up with plate after plate of unattractiveness. The salad, packed with lots of stuff, tasted good but visually I was underwhelmed. No matter how I arranged it, what ingredients I used or plate I selected, it looked like a big orange mess. It was the Bloody Mary Curse in a whole new form I hadn’t anticipated.
I grilled romaine. Ugly. I mixed the vinaigrette with pretty ruffled greens in a beautiful pottery bowl. Ugly. I drizzled it delicately over an iceberg wedge. Super ugly. I carefully placed, styled and skewered the toppings. Ugly, ugly and once again, ugly. My level of frustration was growing at the same rate as my file of reject photos. Tomato season was peaking and I needed to figure this out soon.
So I quit over thinking it, cut up some romaine in a simple white soup bowl, topped it with loaded skewers of my favorite picked things and called it a day. I stepped back, zoomed in and looked at the shot. It actually looked pretty good. A little funky and bright but pretty good and it tasted great. Whew.
I posted a shot on Instagram and someone made the comment that the tomato vinaigrette would be good on peaches. I hadn’t considered that. So I tried it: mixed greens, a sliced heirloom tomato and a sliced, perfectly ripe nectarine drizzled with the vinaigrette. It was a strikingly vivid, almost neon, salad and the flavor matched it’s appearance. The acid of the dressing spectacularly enhanced the sweetness of the nectarines – it was a revelation. Unusual, I admit but I highly recommend it.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: FLIP FLOP FABULOUS. All the flavors you love in the classic brunch beverage in a bright tangy salad. Load up the skewers with all the things you love in your classic Bloody Mary – shrimp, pickles, olives, salami, what have you – and pile them on the plate. It’s a fun, versatile dish and do be sure to make it with peaches or nectarines. Quite a fantastic flavor combination.
On this blog four years ago: Chilled Cavillion Melon Soup, Galette de Gayon (Fig Walnut Honey Galette), Candied Yellow Tomatoes
On this blog three years ago: Peach Sorbetto, Peach Frozen Custard
On this blog two years ago: Gascon Simple Cold Melon Soup, Sweet Corn Soup
On this blog one year ago: Figgy BBQ Sauce from Bastille Day BBQ (Again. I was gone most of last summer.)
BLOODY MARY VINAIGRETTE
For the vinaigrette: (makes a scant cup)
¼ pound very ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped – generally 1 medium tomato
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
½ – 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or to taste
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
Fixin’s: your choice
Peppers – cherry, pepperocini
Pickle chunks, spears or slices
Marinated artichoke hearts
Sliced or cubed salami
For the salad:
2 heads of romaine hearts, cut into bite size pieces
½ red onion, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- For the vinaigrette: In a blender or with an immersion blender, puree the chopped tomatoes, horseradish, lemon zest, lemon juice, Worcestershire, Tabasco sauce and a good pinch each of salt and pepper until smooth.
- With the blender running, drizzle in the olive oil and blend until smooth and emulsified.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl, taste and add salt, pepper and more Tabasco if desired.
- For the fixin’s: thread your chosen ingredients onto a wooden skewer slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl or plate you’re using to serve. Plan on two skewers per serving.
- For the salad: Lightly toss the chopped romaine with a little of the vinaigrette and divide between four bowls or plates.
- Top with diced onion and cherry tomatoes.
- Top each salad with 1-2 loaded skewers and drizzle again with additional vinaigrette, passing extra alongside if you wish.