A Salad for All Seasons

Mar 27, 2024

Every home cook or chef needs a few unique tricks in their repertoire: the special dessert for the school or office party, the effortless meal when unexpected company arrives at lunchtime, the emergency supper when there’s nothing planned, and the elegant salad for the festive family or potluck gathering.   Over the several decades of creating meals for my family and friends, I’ve garnered a multitude of recipes and ideas, and fed thousands of souls.

Of all the recipes in my collection, a Maine-inspired fruit salad prepared with local Maine greens and seasonal fruit, Maine artisan cheese, and Helen Corbitt’s Poppy Seed Dressing is hands-down the favorite.

Corbitt, a dietician and former home economics instructor at the University of Texas, drilled into her students the importance of the freshest ingredients, treated with respect and served with flair.  The food service director at the Texas department store Neiman Marcus from 1955 – 1975, Helen served the likes of Bob Hope, Princess Margaret, the Duchess of Windsor and Zsa Zsa Gabor. “I cannot get by without Poppy Seed Dressing though I’m personally tired of it,” she wrote in her 1974 book, “Helen Corbitt Cooks for Company.”

It’s the flavor combination of tart, sweet and savory combined with the texture of poppy seeds that make this dressing addictive.  Poppy Seed Dressing is delicious on practically every kind of fresh salad.  While Corbitt created this dressing for Texas’ famous grapefruit, the sauce highlights all fruit.

In the dearth of winter, dried cranberries and apples over grated root cellar cabbage pique the palate.  In early summer, vine-ripe Maine strawberries or raspberries with spinach and fresh goat cheese create a perfect light lunch.  Come fall, Maine wild blueberries and local kale with blue cheese offer up a dessert-worthy treat.

No matter what the occasion, a salad prepared with Maine greens, fruit and artisan cheese doused Poppy Seed Dressing is always in season.   Unleash your creativity, enjoy, and send along your favorite salad recipes!

Feta & Orange Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

Cheryl Wixson

Ingredients
  

Poppy Seed Dressing

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup white or cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup finely chopped white onion
  • 1 cup canola oil or sunflower oil not olive oil, need neutral flavor
  • tablespoons poppy seeds

Orange & Feta Salad

  • 1 head Bibb lettuce or 2 cups baby lettuce leaves
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 ounce feta cheese
  • 4 tablespoons toasted nuts pecans, almonds, walnuts
  • 2– 3 tablespoons tablespoons Poppy Seed Dressing

Instructions
 

Poppy Seed Dressing Instructions

  • Assemble ingredients and tools.
  • In the bowl of your blender, pulse together the sugar, dry mustard and salt. Add the vinegar and chopped white onion, and blend thoroughly.
  • While running the blender, slowly add the oil. Finish adding the oil and blend until thick. Beat for a few more seconds, then add the poppy seeds.
  • Store the dressing in a cool place, but not the coldest place in the refrigerator.  The dressing should not separate unless it gets too cold or too hot.  May be remixed if it separates.  Makes about 2 cups dressing.

Orange & Feta Salad Instructions

  • Assemble ingredients and tools. Separate the Bibb lettuce leaves. Wash the lettuce and spin or pat dry.
  • Peel the oranges and cut the segments into bite-sized pieces.
  • Toast the nuts in a 350-degree oven until they are fragrant. Allow to cool. Coarsely chop the nuts and set aside.
  • To assemble: Line two salad plates with the lettuce leaves. Arrange the orange segments on top of the lettuce. Break up the feta and scatter over the oranges. Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the top. Drizzle the salad with the Poppy Seed Dressing

Cheryl's Notes

Nutritional analysis per tablespoon of dressing: 81 calories, less than 1 gramprotein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fat, 61 mg. sodium, less than 1 gram fiber.
Nutritional analysis per salad: 283 calories, 5 grams protein, 25 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams fat, 242 mg. sodium, 6 grams fiber

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