Herb-laced green goddess dressing, in its original incarnation, contained a lavish 3 cups of mayonnaise, abundant anchovies, a scant cup of mixed herbs and a half-cup of tarragon vinegar, according to the granddaughter of chef Philip Roemer.
Roemer created the beloved dressing for a banquet at San Francisco's Palace Hotel, held in honor of George Arliss, the lead in the 1923 play “The Green Goddess.”
Over time, the dressing's green shade has remained while its emulsifier has shifted, from mayonnaise to buttermilk, sour cream, even avocado. But the herbs and acid that give it bright flavor have made the dressing an enduring classic—one we wanted to update.
Our first step was to lighten the dressing's body—without losing texture—to provide better balance. For that, we turned to tofu. The custard-like consistency of silken tofu gave us a rich, smooth starting point without the fat. Shelf-stable and more neutral in flavor than refrigerated versions, the moisture-rich tofu breaks down easily in a blender. It was the perfect backbone to a deceptively creamy dressing.
From there, we ratcheted up the herbs to give the dressing more punch. We liked parsley combined with the mellow onion note of chives and the distinctive licorice-like flavor of fresh tarragon. (Don't sub dried tarragon if you can't find fresh; chopped fresh dill or basil make better substitutes.)
Assembling the dressing required no more effort than putting all the ingredients into the blender to create a dressing that was the requisite pale green, with sharp tang and potent herbal flavor.
To harness that in a full-fledged dish, we crafted a salad with romaine lettuce and Belgian endive; the crisp greens stood up well to our revamped dressing. We added steamed asparagus and sliced radishes to give the salad more substance. And for a colorful, flavorful finish, we grated hard-cooked eggs on the small holes of a box grater to sprinkle over the salad.