Okay, forget meatloaf, and mac and cheese, and chicken pot pies. Those are other people’s comfort foods — although there was always something about the texture of that pie crust of a chicken pot pie, when it met the starchy liquid contained within the pies. (Something we ate when the parents went out to dinner and we were being sat — sometimes we liked the sitter and other times we didn’t, so chicken pot pie never really became a true comfort food. You have to associate the childhood food with a comfortable environment, too. And, actually, I’d prefer to disqualify food that wasn’t produced at home by the parents. Yes, they made mac and cheese, and meatloaf, but those weren’t dishes I ever particularly liked. Especially the meatloaf — until I learned to sub in sweet potato for the bread crumbs.)
Comfort food by definition is something you saw a lot of, while growing up, and also really craved. Mother could make comfort food. Dad could make great food, too, but he didn’t tend to repeat recipes as he loved to invent and try new flavors. In a way, eating variety is also totally comfort food in my book, don’t get me wrong. (Which fact you can probably appreciate just by reading this blog.) What I’m instead getting at here in this post, is those specific recipes you had in the past, which were repeated and repeated, and which you adored. And my comfort foods aren’t necessarily going to be YOUR comfort foods, gentle reader, or vice versa, so I am SO not adding “comfort food” to my tag list for this blog post, even though this it is…
Yes, for me, one of these dishes was artichokes, simmered in water, and served with Catalina salad dressing as a dipping sauce.
Catalina salad dressing was something you purchased at the grocery store. Back in the day, say the seventies, it was pretty awesome. Tart and tangy, it made the perfect accompaniment to artichoke leaves and hearts. Pull off a leaf, and dip. Take the de-feathered choke, and dip.
Somewhere in the late 80’s or early 90’s, or thereabouts, “they” (the powers that be) changed the recipe. High Fructose Corn Syrup replaced the sugar. Some other amendments were also apparently added. This stuff had descended from heaven into (at the very best) purgatory. It wasn’t just the additional sweetness that turned me away from this delight, but the overall new “bleah” to this dressing. It really bothered me that I could no longer stand my fave dipping sauce for artichokes. I tried other commercial dressings. The only thing that sorta worked has been straight up lemon juice, from the lemon itself, but 1) it doesn’t stick to the leaf, and 2) it’s not good enough anyway.
Sourcing around for possible make at home variants this week, I get the sense from blogs I’ visited that Catalina might no longer be on the shelves. I wouldn’t know — it has been at least three years since I last cruised the salad dressing aisle at my grocery. I make my own. Usually vinaigrettes. But… vinaigrettes don’t cling to artichoke leaves all that convincingly… They simply drool off.
At any rate, here is a source recipe I used to devise my own Catalina-style dressing. If you don’t like mine, try theirs. I halved the recipe and made further changes, since I’d rather not intake the sugar, as noted below:
Catalina Style Dressing
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ t. paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon dry mustard
- grated onion to taste (I simply chopped up one large thin slice)
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup tomato sauce, homemade suggested, but find something with decent ingredients otherwise
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
I ditched the sugar, and switched the ketchup to tomato sauce. I haven’t bought ketchup in at least a decade, unless it came masquerading as shrimp cocktail sauce; and I do have some good quality tomato sauce which I canned myself this last autumn. (The only added ingredients in it are vinegar, for safely canning pH requirements, and basil.) I also halved the salt in the source recipe, figuring I could add in more if wanted. It was fine.
Add all this to your blender/food processor, or use your immersion blender. Blend well. The tomato apparently keeps the oil from settling back out, so you don’t have to drizzle it in at the end, as for mayo. Store in fridge for no more than a week. This sounds like something that could be frozen to no detriment, but I haven’t tested this.
If I really think it needs a sweetener, I’ll test out a dab of maple syrup, which of course will likely alter flavor. I was fine with this batch unsweetened, however. Perhaps I’d came across inherently sweet tomatoes to can? (If you can tolerate the taste of stevia, you could try that, too, if this is not sweet enough for you as is. But, better to err by understatement than by over.)
Does it taste like Catalina? Somewhat, but not really. Less sweet for sure, but feel free to add in your sweeteners — but it tastes far better than the 1980’s – 1990’s reformulation. It also seems a bit runnier, but it still has enough stick-it-to-it-ness enough for my dipping purposes. Enough resemblance to keep this recipe in my To Make Again list.
And it is good enough to use both for salad dressing AND for artichoke dip! YAY, Team!
(The artichokes? I put them in water in a pot on the stove top, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Optionally, you can at first trim off the sharp tops and remove the stem. The stem contains edible pith but is sometimes not worth the bother. Depending on size, anywhere from 30 minutes for babies to a good hour and twenty for the mammoths. Eat the bases of the leaves — as you get further into the artichoke, more of the leaf is edible. Don’t eat the sharp fur covering the heart (except in the babies) because it prickles and will SO not feel good going down. AND, savor the heart! Artichokes are best served hot, but leftovers can be eaten cold.)
If I have a couple mammoth ones, I can turn them into a full dinner, and have done that in my past. You are eating slowly enough that satiety has a chance to kick in. Now that I have a delectable dipping sauce, I’m much more likely to do this again!
PS, if you cook them in aluminum pots (I no longer have any), the water tends to turn green during the process. I say “tends”, because the one time I attempted to impress friends by making green Easter eggs from artichoke water — this didn’t work… Of course I’ve seen other artichokes turn the water green, without aluminum pots, but it is less frequent. Who knows?