Today, of course, Neighbor Darcy is the proprietress of the fabulous Heartfelt general store on Cortland. Yet many moons ago, she was rather close (wink wink) with a member of Sha Na Na. The salad days did not last, alas. But she did get a gen-u-ine rockstar salad dressing recipe out of the deal — and her relationship with that salad dressing continues to thrive and prosper to this very day.
Now that we are in peak salad season, Bernalwood is proud to bring you this (only slightly sordid) story about how Neighbor Darcy acquired the secret Sha Na Na salad dressing recipe, why it’s still so very tasty, and how you too can enjoy the secret Sha Na Na salad dressing your own Bernal doo-wop greaser den.
The best and easiest salad dressing I ever learned to make was from the wife of Scott Simon, a member of the band Sha Na Na.
When I was 20 I worked as a waitress for the summer in Mashpee, Massachusets. Sha Na Na rehearsed for their summer tours there, and I dated one of the members. (oh, geesh) His name was Dave (Chico) Ryan — he was the handsome bass player who sang “Teenager In Love.”
We didn’t go out for long. But he took me to New York when they played in Central Park, and afterwards we partied with Keith Moon, who was a big Sha Na Na fan. (Strange but true.) Keith Moon was insane that night. We ended up at a night club disco with a lighted dance floor, and Keith Moon left the Sha Na Na boys with a huge check to pay.
Later, I met one of the band member’s wives and had dinner at her home in Westchester. She made a salad that was truly delicious. I asked about the dressing. She said, “A good salad dressing is good olive oil, not too much vinegar and salt. Really a lot of salt.”
To me, as a kid totally out of my element, she seemed sophisticated and worldly, in a Mad Men way.
I still use that basic formula, although I like to add ingredients to keep things interesting. I love the reaction my salads generate, and my book club loves them, so here’s how I do it:
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
A big pinch of salt (don’t hold back)
Pomegranate molasses (optional)
Moscatel vinegar (optional, instead of champagne vinegar)
Toasted sliced almonds
I think it’s refreshing to get away from Balsamic as a go-to ingredient. I taste more flavors when the vinegar is lighter and not as pushy. In her wonderful cookbook “Root to Stalk Cooking,” Bernal’s own Tara Duggan uses Moscatel vinegar as an ingredient, and that’s become my new favorite. (Don’t think Muscatel the cheap wine; this is a light vinegar from Tarragona, Spain.) If I only have regular wine vinegar in my cupboard, I like to add a whimsy ingredient to the dressing. For instance, with this salad, a teaspoon of pomegranate molasses is great too. I buy mine at Samiramis Imports at 25th and Mission.
I get the packs of Romaine hearts at Good Life, cut the ends off and wash the leaves. After they dry, I chop them roughly, vertically across the leaf. When you slice the oranges, it’s important to get as much as the white pith off as possible. If you are bringing this salad somewhere, wait to add the avocado because it looks really lovely, freshly sliced on top.
Enjoy the sunshine and bring a sweater for that killer breeze!
PHOTOS: via Darcy Lee