Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: salad dressing and oils



Global warming is still with us and our eating habits have changed accordingly. More nutritious light meals is the norm, and the recipe given today reflects that fact. A classical salad dressing that enhances any veggie combination. What we offer is Salade à la Crème. A basic translation would be ‘cream salad.’ Simple enough: combine pepper, salt, red wine vinegar, cream and olive oil, and serve over greens or any vegetable of your choice. In this case we opted for zucchini, tomatoes and smoked turkey on a bed of spinach topped with stuffed Spanish green olives,. You can add, change or modify the ingredients to suit your palate. As I’ve said times before, you’re only limited by your imagination.



1 (5-oz.) package fresh spinach
3 zucchini, washed and sliced thin
18-20 cherry tomatoes, slice in half
1 (7-oz.) pack turkey breasts (smoked or oven roasted)
1/3 cup pimento stuffed Spanish olives, sliced in half

Salad Dressing:
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
5 tablespoons heavy cream
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Rinse spinach under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels or salad spinner.
  2. In a salad platter, arrange spinach in a circle. Add zucchini and garnish with tomatoes. Layer with turkey breasts and stuffed olives
  3. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, cream, pepper and salt. Beat with a whisk for 20-30 seconds. The mixture should be creamy and foamy. Add olive oil and mix with a spoon to blend. Drizzle dressing over salad and serve.
    Yield: 4-6 servings.


It’s been a hot, gruesome summer in most places and the idea of cooking over a stove is anathema to most, even with air conditioning. The Cucumber Salad recipe we have today will improve the situation. It’s a chilled cucumber salad, no fusing with cooking. Now, some  would never consider cucumbers for a salad dish. Cucumbers are normally relegated to a sometime appetizer, if that. This dish transforms it to a savory lunch or even main course for a hot humid day. It’s perfect with lots of bread. You can garnish it with tomatoes or eggs or anchovies, or  whatever else is available on the cupboard. Take a bite out of summer with this easy and unique cucumber salad.



3 cucumbers
Salt to taste
1 quart sour cream
fresh finely chopped dill, about a 3 tablespoons or as much as you want
Juice from ½ lemon


  1. Peel cucumbers and slice thin. Add lots of salt, place in refrigerator and leave there to chill until serving.
  2.  Mix dill with sour cream.  Stir in lemon juice. Place in fridge till just before serving.
  3.  Tale cucumbers and drain extra water from dish. Mix cucumber with the sour cream dressing and serve.
    Yield: 4-6 servings.







Mid-summer, and it’s still hot in most places. And, of course, global warming isn’t helping any. For days like these, here’s a recipe that was a favorite in our family back on the block. The recipe is easy, quick and delicious; and it’s appropriate now that good, ripe avocados are still in season. The result is a compendium of buttery chunks of avocado, with hints of radish heat, sausage, and a simple vinaigrette that gives you a crisp and refreshing salad. With some crusty bread and a good wine, red or white, it makes for a fine summer meal.



¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 (6-8 oz.) firm-ripe avocados, pitted, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 head lettuce (it can be Bibb lettuce, romaine, or as we did it, mesclun mix) torn into 1-inch pieces
3 medium radishes, thinly sliced
6 ounces thinly sliced sausage (pepperoni, salami, or other favorite)


  1. In a small bowl or cruet, whisk together lemon juice, salt and pepper. Whisk in oil.
  2.  Toss greens, radishes, sausage, and add just enough dressing to coat.
    Yield: 4 servings.




Summer is zucchini time, what some call summer squash (as opposed to winter squash). Any amateur gardener knows how prolific the little suckers can be. Thus we have an abundance of zucchini, and an abundance of hot weather. Combine the two for better affect when  the humidity is high, and you got Zucchini Salad.

Initially, when I prepared zucchini salad I would use regular mayonnaise and, maybe, a touch of olive oil. Then I discovered Herb Mayonnaise and the rest, as they say, is history. With a crusty loaf of bread and a good white wine or even a rosé, and you have a great summer meal.  Buen Gusto.



1 pound zucchini, peeled and coarsely grated
Salt to taste (optional)
Herb Mayonnaise (see below)

Herb Mayonnaise:
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
¼ cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill or ¼ teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives or 1 teaspoon dried
Fresh black pepper to taste


  1. Spread grated zucchini on 3 layers of paper towels, sprinkle with salt and let stand 1 hour.
  2.  Meanwhile, prepare Herb Mayonnaise by stirring together all ingredients in a large bowl. Add zucchini to herb mixture and stir to mix. Spoon into a serving dish and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.







Salad Dressings

Summertime is salad time, we all know that. The problem has always been salad dressings. Back on the block, when I was coming up, there was no such thing as exclusive salad dressings. It was just plain ole olive oil and vinegar drizzled over the greens. Even in Spanish Harlem in the 50s and 60s this was the norm. Then, like everybody else, we started getting into the fancy individualized dressings: Russian, French, Ranch-Style, 1,000 Island, etc. But, you know what?—in my family it was still the old standby of oil and vinegar.

Now, I know times have changed, and even an old dinosaur like me recognizes that. Still, to me, salad dressings are a goof. Go to the supermarket and you are inundated by every type and blend— everything from the regulars, like Italian, Blue Cheese, Caesar, to Raspberry Walnut, Chipotle Ranch, Guacamole Ranch, Ginger-Mandarin, Lime-Basil, Sun-Dried Tomato, Santa Fe Blend, and specialty premium types like Champagne Dressing and something called “Goddess”  Dressing. All well and good. However, most are loaded with chemicals and ersatz ingredients. I discovered long ago that you can make fine dressings at home, and usually with stuff already in your cupboard. I stopped buying the fancy-dan specimens a while back. Plain, good ingredients, and in a few moments of your time you have best, nutritious and delicious backdrop to any salad.

Below are given five of my favorites. Why spend money on pseudo stuff, when you can whip up the genuine article?

Combine in a small bowl or cruet: 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons vinegar (distilled white, cider or red wine), 1/2 teaspoon mustard (dry or prepared), salt and pepper to tatse. Blend with a fork or small whisk. Stir in 1 teaspoon of crumbled herbs (basil or thyme, or oregano, or parsley, or dill). Place in refrigerator until ready to use.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 2 tablespoons vinegar (distille white or red wine). Stir in 2 small thinly sliced scallions, and season with pepper to taste. This is normally used over steamed vegetables or fish.

Combine until smooth in a blender or food processor, 1 medium peeled cucumber, 1 scallion, 2 tablespoons fresh mint, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon sesame tahini.

Combine until smooth in a blender of food processor: 1 cup yogurt, 2 tablespoons fresh dillweed, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 small yellow onion or 1 scallion. Chill and serve over cooked vegetables or fish.

Stir together in a small bowl until well blended: 3/4 cup yogurt, 1 tablespoon sesame tahini, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon white vinegar. Serve chilled over toss salad or in tuna, macaroni or chicken salad.

Following in this vein, some friends have asked me how to infuse or flavor olive oil. You know what I mean: you go into a fancy store and you see bottles of olive oil with all kinds of things growing in them. You can have the same affect at home for 1/3 of the cost.

Wash and dry a large bunch of fresh herbs (such as basil, cilantro, tarragon, dill, etc.) Fill a bottle with half of the leaves, and then fill with olive oil. For more flavor, you can add some whole peppercorns, 1 clove garlic (smashed), and (if you’re really adventurous) one red or green hot pickled pepper (or 1 chili pepper). Cover and store in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. For a stronger flavor, remove the basil leaves and replace with more leaves. Cover and steep for another week. Strain the oil

Cooking with Garlic Oil

In my family, we loved garlic. It’s in our DNA. My mother, my aunt, my uncles would use mounds of it when cooking. As I’ve stated before, vampires would have a hard time with us. Looking back on it now, it’s odd that we used garlic in conjunction with olive oil, but always as separate ingredients in a dish. We never combined the two as one spice. The Italian norm of dipping bread into olive oil combined with strips of garlic and using that instead of butter, never occurred to us. It wasn’t native to our cooking. When I traveled to Italy in the 1980s and discovered garlic oil, another innovation to me, and I was in heaven. I’ve used garlic oil in whatever variation ever since.

And it’s so easy to combine these two staples. You can use it in vinaigrettes, dressings, marinades, you name it. Add to that, it is the simplest thing to make.

Given below is my standard basic recipe for garlic oil, followed by a couple of quick recipes for this wonder weapon of cooking. The recipes yield 4 servings.


Cloves from 1 head garlic, peeled and crushed
1 cup olive oil (either regular for a more piquant taste, or extra virgin for a more subtle taste)

1. In a medium pot or pan, add garlic and olive oil.
2. Cook over medium-low heat until bubbles start to form around garlic, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low simmer and cook until garlic begins to brown, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and let cool at room temperature for 45 minutes. Use as needed; and store the rest in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 week.



In a large zip-lock plastic bag, combine 2 pounds fresh fish fillets (any fish); 1/2 cup garlic oil with cloves; 2 lemons cut into thin rounds; salt and ground back pepper to taste; and 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 2 teaspoons fresh). Shake to coat fish, and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. 10 minutes before serving, preheat broiler. Broil fish until done. If the fillet is very thick, it may need to be turned over one time.


In a large zip-lock plastic bag, combine garlic oil with cloves; 2 lemons cut into thin rounds; 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley; and 1 whole chicken (3-3 1/2 pounds), washed and cut into 8-10 pieces. Shake to coat chicken, and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. Or you can refrigerate overnight for a more pronounced flavor. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place chicken with marinade in a roasting pan. Season with salt and ground black pepper to taste, and bake until skin is golden and chicken is cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes.   

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