I’m a sucker for a good theme party. Fortunately, my friends throw good theme parties.
Like, for example, a Greek gods party. With togas and garlands and grapes and more grapes. It was glorious. We all lounged around in the silliest, cleverest costumes we could think of, and drank wine and grilled meat and then changed into swimsuits and played tag in the pool. We were also encouraged to bring thematically-appropriate food. Which I did. And, apparently, went a little retro to boot.
I’d been seeing recipes around for green goddess dip, and this seemed like the perfect party to test it out at. Green goddess dip is in fact an adaptation of green goddess dressing, which was invented in the kitchens of a fancy hotel in the 1920’s (in San Francisco, I believe!). It’s got a slight head-scratcher of an ingredients list: mayonnaise, sour cream, tarragon, chives, chervil or parsley, lemon juice, and anchovy. The combination of aggressive herbal brightness and luxe creaminess must have been a stunner back in the bootleggers’ days, but I wanted to find a way to lighten it some. The solution? Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, and a big ripe avocado in place of the mayonnaise. Not only did the avocado make the dip insanely buttery and thick, but it also turned it science-fiction green. A green green goddess dip, indeed.
I didn’t have high hopes for this one; it was mostly for the ha-ha of the name and the theme of the party. But man, was this a huge hit. The combination was unusual and immensely satisfying: the cool milky smoothness of the yogurt and avocado against the pale oniony chives, light licorice tarragon, leafy parsley, and just the faintest whisper of salt from the anchovies. We started out with carrot sticks, then migrated to tortilla chips, and by the end of the party I was swabbing out the dregs from the bowl with my finger. I have no regrets.
Since this was a party of the gods, I also wanted to try my hand at the food of the gods: ambrosia. There is such a thing as ambrosia salad, a throwback to the days when processed foods were new and exciting. It’s like a fruit salad with the sugar and chemicals turned up to 11: canned pineapple, canned mandarin orange, mini marshmallows, flaked coconut, maraschino cherries, premade whipped topping or sour cream or both. I’ve had ambrosia salad. It’s…not my thing. But I knew there was a hint of something amazing underneath all of that. And August, with its absolute abundance of stone fruit, is just the right time for a creamy fruit salad. Which is really what ambrosia salad is.
I suppose I shouldn’t really call this ambrosia salad, since it has none of the requisite ingredients. What it does have are fresh peaches, plums, and cherries, tossed in a dressing of thickened coconut milk, lime, mint, and vanilla. Toss it in the fridge for a couple hours–it gets better the longer it sits–and serve it chilled from a big bowl. The juices from the fruit mingle with the rich coconut-sweet glaze, making it nearly impossible to stop eating chunks of fruit straight from the bowl with your fingers. (At least, if you’re me.) Ambrosia salad, it’s not; but ambrosia, it just might be.