Skewered Fresh Fruit with Celery Seed Dressing
Department store eateries, whether the humble lunch counters at Woolworth’s or the elegant dining rooms of upscale stores like Lord and Taylor or Saks Fifth Avenue, had a definite place in our culture in the 1950s and 1960s; many of the fancier ones became destinations apart from the shopping experience because the food was often that good.
In the 1950s my mother worked as a waitress in a restaurant called The Coin Room in Rike’s Department Store in Dayton, Ohio. The restaurant featured light, well prepared meals for 99 cents plus the 3 cents sales tax bringing the total for a wonderful cooked from scratch luncheon to $1.02. It was great for shoppers who wanted a quick, inexpensive and tasty meal.
My mother brought home The Coin Room recipe for Celery Seed Dressing which was a big hit there and in our home. It was a dressing for a fruit salad. It tasted great on grapefruit, pears, apples– just about any fruit, as well as greens, nuts and other fruit salad accompaniments. However, somewhere along the line it got lost. Rike’s was sold to a conglomerate, The Coin Room disappeared and then, in 1986, my mother died. Then, just this year, tucked in an old cookbook left to me by my mother, there it was. I couldn’t wait to prepare it again and relive those lovely times.
I submitted this recipe for America’s Best Lost Recipes published in 2007 by America’s Test Kitchen. The test kitchen “loved the sweet and sour flavors of this dressing and tasted it on everything from apples to greens (we especially loved it on Bibb lettuce) to a cucumber and radish salad. The taste gets better as it sits, so be sure to allow it the full hour (or days) to develop all of its potential flavor. Also, be sure to use celery seeds, not celery salt, for this recipe.”
Here it is as a refreshing side for your backyard picnic. Serve it chilled alongside skewered cubes of fresh fruit of your choice. Try any combination of kiwi, cantaloupe, watermelon, mango, bananas, papaya, honeydew, strawberries, apples, pears, grapefruit or peaches. Just make sure the fruit is ripe.
Celery Seed Dressing (Makes about 1 cup)
¼ cup sugar
½ t dry mustard
½ t salt
½ t celery seed
2 T grated yellow onion
2 ½T white vinegar
½ cup peanut or canola oil
Stir the sugar, mustard, salt and celery seed together in a medium bowl. Add the onion and the vinegar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Slowly whisk in the oil until well blended. Cover and refrigerate until the flavors meld, about 1 hour. (The dressing can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Whisk before serving.)