Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bullock's Tea Room Salads

5/13/09 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Today, as promised in last week’s Chatterbox, we’re going to look at some elegant recipes from the now defunct Bullock’s Tea Rooms. Originally opened as a single store in downtown Los Angeles during the late 1930s, the equally beautiful Westwood and Wilshire stores came along later as the city started to sprawl.

Tea rooms were all the rage in the mid-twentieth century but they served up more than afternoon tea and crumpets. After all, a girl had to eat something around noon to keep up her strength for shopping! So tea rooms also served as upscale luncheonettes where ladies could dress up to meet and socialize with their friends, while enjoying a delightful meal.

Bullock’s Tea Room was the top of the heap. Literally. The view from the fifth floor was magnificent. It catered to the upper crust of society but attracted everyone with its charm, diverse menu, genteel atmosphere and surprisingly affordable prices. In terms of ambiance, food and service, it had no peer.

Eating there also served as a badge of honor or prestige. A Monday morning conversation between friends might go something like this: “What did you do this weekend?” If the response was, “Oh, we went to Bullock’s Tea room,” there was always an electric silence in return. One could almost feel the envy in the air.

All of the tea rooms were originally run by Miss Larson, who beautifully displayed her dessert creations, meticulously trained her wait staff and carefully guarded her recipes. Her diversity of menu items was dizzying. And on Tuesdays there was an upscale fashion luncheon costing $1.25, an up-charge from the usual $I.00 fee.

We Bullock’s girls were always torn between our favorites. Should we choose the club sandwich, the trio salad (chicken, fruit and shrimp) or The Spanish plate with its yummy little tamales, beans, green salad and toasted cheese sandwiches? Adding to the dilemma were the fresh breads and desserts. Their pecan rolls, date and nut bread, orange rolls and cheese bread were to die for. Of course, a slice of decadently rich French chocolate layer cake rounded any menu choice.

I have seen several variations on the so-called Bullock’s recipes. I’m going to share my favorites for the trio salads that I clipped out of the L.A. Times years ago. As I recall, the salads were served on a single plate, each nestled in its own lettuce cup and accompanied by a slice of fruit and nut bread.

Please remember that this was an era when calories “didn’t count.” So feel free to adjust the amounts of mayonnaise or oil called for and/or use low fat varieties. The number of people served by each recipe will depend on whether you’re serving a single salad as an entrée or as part of the trio. Enjoy!

Bullock’s Fruit Salad

Salad base:
Assorted cut fruit in season
(Melons, grapes, bananas, pineapple, berries, cherries, etc.)
Lettuce leaf cups or shredded lettuce, set aside

Mix fruits in large bowl and refrigerate.

1-1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2/3 cup vinegar
3 tablespoons onion juice
2 cups oil
3 tablespoons poppy seeds

Combine sugar, mustard, vinegar and onion juice. Gradually add oil, whisking until smooth. Add poppy seeds and blend well. Chill, covered in refrigerator. Drizzle dressing in desired amounts over fruit and mix lightly. Serve in lettuce cups. Refrigerate remaining dressing in tightly covered jar for later use. Serves 4-8

NOTE: This recipe can easily be halved. It is obviously proportioned for a large quantity of fruit.

Bullock’s Chicken Salad

Salad base:
3 cups cooked chicken, diced
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon salt
Dash pepper
Lettuce leaf cups or shredded lettuce, set aside
6 tablespoons almonds, toasted and sliced

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine chicken, celery, salt and pepper. Mix mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and lemon juice; add to chicken mixture. Toss to mix well. Chill at least 1 hour. Serve in lettuce cups and sprinkle with a dash of paprika and toasted almonds. Serves 4-6

NOTE: As a main dish this is excellent as a so-called Chinese Chicken salad with crispy noodles and mandarin oranges.

Crab Meat and Shrimp Salad

Salad base:
2 cups cooked crab meat, shredded
2 cups bay shrimp
2 cups celery, finely sliced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Lettuce leaf cups or shredded lettuce; set aside

Combine all ingredients except lettuce and refrigerate.

Poppy-Seed Dressing
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
3-4 drops red food coloring (optional)
1 tablespoon poppy seed (reserved)

Combine all ingredients except poppy seeds in blender until smooth. Pour dressing in a bowl and stir in poppy seeds. Cover and chill 1 hour or more.

To serve: Distribute salad among the lettuce cups and drizzle the dressing over the top. Serve extra dressing on the side. Serves 4-8

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! 
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.


SewBarbie said...

Hi! Do you know the recipe for Matador salad? I miss Bullocks and the tea rooms soooo much. One word, popovers.

Gayle Wolff said...

Dont know if you got my message. With Bullocks Chicken salad you always got a small fruit cup with a puffy/fluff like strawberry whip. The recipe you included doesn't seem like it would be lite and fluffy. Do you know which one I am asking about. Cant find it anywhere-HELP