Both yolk and mustard contain sulfur, she explained, which can be a turn-off to many eaters, especially when it is perceived in egg yolk. In mayonnaise, the sulfurous notes of yolk and mustard blend into each other, dissolving the edges of one another, such that neither one sticks out.
“Mayonnaise is not as sulfury as it might be,” Vance-Civille said, “because most of the mayonnaises do a good job of covering the egg with the mustard, which is part of what makes it so beautiful.”
This beauty is more than just the absence of annoying sulfur, butthe way multiple versions of similar elements of flavor can interact in concert, blending so smoothly with one another that the lines between them merge into a continuum of flavor.
Mayo not only benefits from this blend, but brings it to the foods to which it is applied. It contains all of the basic tastes, including a hint of bitter thanks to that mustard. These tastes add redundancy and contrast to the flavors already present in the salad and its dressing.
I’m harping on mayo not only because it demonstrates some important flavor principles, but because it’s present in this redundantly greasy dandelion salad. And being mostly fat, mayonnaise adds another important quality: it makes carotenes in the vegetables more accessible to the body. These molecules are fat-soluble, which means oils and fats can extract them from the food more effectively than if you chewed it in a fat-free context. The fat in mayo is joined by the olive oil in the dressing, as well as other fats in the many rich toppings that I recommend adding to the salad, such as anchovies and the oil they come packed in, as well as egg.
The many fats and proteins atop this salad allow you to add more bitterness than you might normally be able to handle. Indeed, without enough bitter greens the salad would be too decadent. So the richness and complexity not only allows better absorption of nutrients, it allows high levels of bitterness to be tolerable. And bitterness in vegetables, as a general rule, is a marker of nutrient-density. If dandelions are unavailable, other tough, bitter, and spicy greens, like kale or arugula, can be used as well. In fact, diversity in bitterness will soften the impact, much the same way that diversity of sulfur compounds reduces their impact in mayo.
The bitter greens are bulked out with romaine and balanced with a medley of fats and proteins. One of my recommendations, as you will see below, is soft tofu, which must be tried at least once. Its creamy blandness provides a bland sanctuary in what is otherwise a sharp, spicy, bitter, acidic, and all around feisty gang of flavors.
2 heads romaine, chopped
2 fistfulls of dandelion or other “difficult” greens, chopped
1 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 medium sweet onion, sliced
1 cup basil leaves, chopped or whole
2-3 radishes, sliced
1 cucumber, sliced
Garden tomatoes, to taste, but only if they’re good. Don’t bother with cheap tomatoes.
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced, pressed or otherwise macerated
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 lime, juiced
¼ cup olive oil
Pinch of salt
2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
The fats and proteins
Note, these are all suggestions. There are many more that could be tried. Use what sounds good, and what you have.
Hard-boiled eggs, crushed
Anchovies, minced. Add some anchovy oil as well
Salmon or some other fish, smoked or broiled
Slices of ham or turkey, shredded
Feta, brie, blue cheese, etc.
Soft tofu, doled out in large chunks
Prepare vegetables and put in a bowl. Combine dressing ingredients with a whisk or fork. Toss in the dressing.
Add the proteins last, on top, keeping them organized and separate, at least at first. Be careful not to stir or even over-jiggle the tofu, as it will easily come apart.
As you eat, pay attention to which fats proteins are most pleasing to chew with your leaves and veggies. The next time you make the salad, adjust these toppings accordingly. This salad is a journey, and each time you make it, tweak it to your personal liking. It’s a journey of contrasting and redundant flavors that help you consume more nutrients than you otherwise might have, a journey that you can take again and again, all summer long.