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July 8, 2009

Boosting the Reputation of Mustard

It is widely and correctly assumed that the proper place for mustard is atop a hot dog. In fact, the hot dog and mustard ranks highly in an annual survey of best food couples (coming in behind peanut butter and jelly and ice cream and cake, but just ahead of bacon and eggs). This has given mustard the reputation for being a rather sassy condiment, one that goes well with thick skinned and potentially slow-witted foods like hamburgers and other thick meats.


Over the years, however, that reputation has ebbed somewhat due to the proliferation of salad dressings. There is nothing more damaging to a tough guy’s reputation than to be associated with the common dinner salad, especially if said salad is in fact a main course. As a result, mustard’s reputation has taken something of a beating because of the growing availability of Dijon mustard salad dressing. In fact, some say that the sassiest of condiments today is salsa, which has yet to be seen in widespread distribution as a salad topping.

Salvation for it lies not in disassociating itself with salad, for such a thing will never happen. Once that genie is let out of the bottle, it will not go back in. Instead, if you are a mustard salad, your road lies in improving the reputation of salad itself.


Effort has been put into this in recent years, adding a variety of meats. And we can take it a step further by replacing the limp little lettuce leaves with pasta noodles. The result is a pasta salad dressed not with traditional Italian dressing, but with a Dijon-based dressing.


While you are cooking your pasta noodles, it is time to mix together the ingredients of the salad dressing. You start with olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic and diced onion. Let these four things stand for a few moments so that the onion and garlic release their juices into the oil. During that time, mix Dijon mustard with some mayonnaise, enough so that the mustard is somewhat creamier, but not overwhelmed that its nice golden color is not too badly eroded by the bland whiteness of the mayo. Stir both elements of the dressing – oil, vinegar and onion on one hand; mustard and mayo on the other – together.


Drain your pasta and rinse with cold water until the pasta is no longer hot. That is because you’re mixing a salad, and not a pasta dish.


To those noodles, add some peas, crumbled bacon, diced hard boiled egg and chopped tomato (the fleshy Roma, with comparatively little juice, works best). Stir in the salad dressing to an even consistency.


You can probably sense a theme here. What you are doing is slowly working back the popular conception of the salad, rolling it into something comprised of more robust ingredients that are either meat or meat-like in their composition. If you are fighting on behalf of mustard’s reputation, your efforts are not going overlooked.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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