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You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book –Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

One of my book clubs occasionally reads a kind of edgy book. This is one of them. By Mohsin Hamid, Exit West: A Novel is a book set in an age not dissimilar to our own and in current time, but something bad has happened in the world. Something never divulged, although symptoms of a civil war are mentioned. A unmarried couple, Nadia and Saeed, are given the opportunity (as others are, as well) to go through a door (this is the exit part of the title) and to another place in the world – it takes but a second – to go through the special door. They go to England (London), to a palatial mansion. Sometimes the power grid is sketchy. Another door. And yet another. And finally to Marin County (north of San Francisco). You follow along with the ups and downs of the chaste relationship of the two, this couple from a house to living on the streets. And the eventual dissolution of the relationship too. I wasn’t enamored with the book, but after listening to the review of it and hearing others talk about it, I suppose there’s more to this story than it might appear. Hope is the word that comes to mind. The book is strange, but it won the Los Angeles Times book award in 2017. It’s received lots of press. It made for some very interesting discussion at our book club meeting.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes. Story: Jennifer Stirling wakes up in hospital, having had a traumatic car accident. She’s introduced to her husband, of whom she has no recollection, and is sent home with him eventually, to a life she neither remembers or embraces readily. But this is the life she was raised to have, so surely it must be worth living, underneath the strange, muted tones of her daily existence. Jennifer goes through the motions, accepts what she is told is her life and all seems to bob along well enough, except when she finds a letter that isn’t her husband’s handwriting, and is clearly a link to someone she has been involved with, but whom? London, France, Africa and America all come into play in this story of a woman piecing back together her life in effort to understand what she has lost, and what she threw away. There is a bit of a time-hop from 1964 to 2003. . . from a reviewer on amazon.  I loved this book from page one to the end. There’s some bit of mystery and you so get into the head of Jennifer Stirling. I could hardly put it down. Great read.

Francine Rivers, an author relatively new to me, but much admired, is most known for this: Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) It’s a trilogy. The first 2 books are about Hadassah, a young woman in the time of the Roman Empire. When Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed, the Christians still alive were sent off and away, separated and derided and abused. Hadassah was one of them. She’s a slave to a wealthy family and it takes 2 of the books to read before the son of the family finally realizes that he’s in love with Hadassah. If  you’re a Christian, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the time following Christ’s crucifixion, about the lot of the struggling Christian community. The 3rd book in the trilogy is about a gladiator who is part of book 1 and 2, but not a main character. You’ll learn about his life too, after he regains his freedom from the fighting ring and the battle of his soul. These books are a fabulous read. Can’t say enough good things about them all. I’ve never been a huge fan of old-world Roman Empire reading, but this one was altogether different. Very worth reading.

Amy Belding Brown wrote this book: Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America, a true accounting in 1676, of Mary Rowlandson, a woman who was captured by Native Americans.  Even before she was captured on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. The story is riveting, and perplexing once she is traded back to her home. You’ll see a different side to the Indian problem back then and find yourself conflicted. An excellent read.

Taylor Caldwell was a prolific writer, and one I read when I was younger. She died in 1980, and this book, her last, Answer As a Man certainly delivers as her others did. All his life, Jason Garrity has had to battle intolerance and injustice in his quest for power, money, and love. His new hotel will give him financial security, the means to support a loving family and become an upstanding citizen. When family secrets and financial greed combine to destroy his dreams, his rigid moral convictions are suddenly brought into question. . . from Goodreads. Caldwell believed the banking industry was way too powerful, and often took aim at it, as she did in this book. It chronicles the life of a very poor, impoverished Irish immigrant to the U.S. He was an upstanding citizen, God-fearing, but maybe naive in some respects. Good book if you enjoy very deep character study.

Another book by Diney Costeloe, Miss Mary’s Daughter. When a young women is suddenly left with no family and no job or income, she’s astounded to learn that she’s actually a granddaughter of a “grand” family in Ye Olde England. She’s very independent (at least I thought so, for the time period), but is willing to investigate this new family of hers. There are many twists and turns – is she going to inherit the family home – or is the man who has been caring for the home and his daughter the logical inheritors. There’s a villain who nearly sweeps her off her feet, much intrigue from many characters. Well developed plot with a happy ending. A good read.

Celeste Ng is a hot new author. I read another of her books (see below) but this time I read Little Fires Everywhere. There are so many various characters and plots in this book, as in her others. This book focuses on a Chinese baby abandoned at a fire station and the subsequent court battle when the single mother surfaces six months later to try to reclaim her daughter from the family in the process of adopting her. Emotions well up, waxing and waning on both sides of the issue. You may even find yourself changing your own mind about the right or wrong of a child raised with a natural-born mother (albeit late to the raising) or the mother the child has known since near birth. Ng likes to write books with lots of grit and thorny issues. Although a good read, I liked Everything I Never Told You better than this one.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

Recently finished C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Also finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. About a dysfunctional family, through and through. I picked this up from amazon from someone who read the book, named “McReader,” and she says: “Set in the 70s, the story follows a Chinese American blended family in Ohio. When Lydia [the daughter] is found floating in the lake, her family is forced to analyze what put her there. Was it pressure from her family to succeed? Was it pressure to fit in? Was it a crime of passion or convenience? I was spellbound reading the last half of this book. I loved each flawed family member, especially Hannah,. While the story went where I hoped it would go, I was not disappointed at all with the progression. It was also quite insightful on the prejudices that society had about Chinese Americans still during that timeframe and how careful parents have to be to put their dreams onto their children.” Such a good book and definitely worth reading. Would be a good book club read. You’ll be hearing more from this author. Am currently reading her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Salad Dressings, on October 10th, 2018.

fresh_lime_vinaigrette

What do you do when you acquire a windfall of limes? Well, you could make margaritas, or some other refreshing drink. In this case it’s salad dressing.

I actually have a lime tree. A dwarf one that lives in a big pot on my patio. To date (about 5 years) it’s yielded maybe 3 limes. This year I got one. I’m not sure what to do with the tree – I guess I’ll keep watering it (it’s on automatic drip) in hopes that it will suddenly decide to fruit more of them.

limes_in_a_bowlBut meanwhile, when I was at the gym the other day, one of the trainers mentioned there was a bowl of limes at the front counter and that I should help myself. I thought about taking one (to be nice, and assuming others would want them too), but she said, oh, no, take all you want – I have hundreds on my tree. So I took a bunch. If there are more the next time I go in, I’ll help myself and probably freeze the juice in 1/2 cup portions. Of course, limes don’t yield a whole lot of juice so it does take a bunch to make up 1/2 cup of juice – I think it took 4.

Here on my blog I have a recipe for a cocina salad with cilantro lime dressing, but I knew if I made that one, I’d need to use up the dressing within 3 days because the cilantro gets icky, even suspended in the dressing. So I went hunting for another recipe, and found one at epicurious. Its only unusual item is the addition of ground coriander. And it also called for cilantro, but I eliminated that part and merely added it to my salad itself.

Surely I’ve mentioned it recently, but I dislike bottled salad dressings. I always prefer my own homemade ones. And because I’m eating a salad nearly every evening, I like variety in my dressings. I have 3 in my refrigerator as I write this. But this one is the first one I go to if I have a choice!

When I mixed it up, I tasted it, using the directions as written. I found the dressing just a tetch too sharp, so I added in another tablespoon or so of oil. I also used a new artificial sweetener that I like. It’s liquid monkfruit. I’ve never had monkfruit – – from wikipedia: monk fruit is a herbaceous perennial vine of the Cucurbitaceae (gourd) family, native to southern China and northern Thailand. The plant is cultivated for its fruit, whose extract is nearly 300 times sweeter than sugar and has been used in China as a low-calorie sweetener for cooling drinks and in traditional Chinese medicine. They extract the juice and concentrate it and mine is a liquid in a little bitty bottle and it drips out. I used 8 drops of monkfruit extract to sweeten the salad dressing. Monkfruit has all kinds of healthful qualities and it slips through your system without being digested, mostly.

What’s GOOD: the dressing is very lime-forward – you truly can taste it. Liked it. The sugar/monkfruit took the edge off, but also the other tablespoon or so of oil helped moderate the sharpness of the lime juice. I liked the flavor altogether, and the ground coriander added a little extra flavor – it’s hardly discernible, however.

What’s NOT: nothing really, unless limes are ridiculously expensive where you live.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Fresh Lime Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Adapted from epicurious
Serving Size: 4

1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 whole garlic clove — finely minced
2 teaspoons sugar — or artificial sweetener
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil — or more if needed

1. On a cutting board, mince the garlic first, then add the salt to the garlic and continue to mince. Set aside for a few minutes.
2. In a tightly lidded jar add all ingredients together including the garlic. Allow to sit at room temp for about 30 minutes before using, so the garlic will mellow a little bit. Taste for acidity and salt – it may need another tetch of oil if it’s too sharp.
Per Serving: 260 Calories; 27g Fat (90.6% calories from fat); trace Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 941mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, Salads, on August 31st, 2018.

blt_salad_grilled_corn_buttermilk_parm_dressing

 

There’s still time, this summer, to make this really refreshing and satisfying salad. Grill the corn, fry up some bacon, plus a few croutons while you’re at it, and add usual ingredients.

You will need buttermilk, to make the dressing for this salad. Frozen and defrosted buttermilk doesn’t hold together, so you do have to buy some buttermilk. The dressing is easy – shallot, cider vinegar, mayo, Parm, salt, pepper and a tiny sprinkle of sugar. Plus the buttermilk. The mayo gives it plenty of richness and thickness as well as there is only 1/2 cup of buttermilk in the dressing. It won’t keep for too long, so better to use it and then make it again fresh. OR, Phillis said if you wanted to make it further ahead, don’t add the shallots until an hour or so before serving.

This came from a cooking class with Phillis Carey. My friend Cherrie and I love going to classes with Phillis – she makes the kind of food we both really like. Only trouble is we have to drive to San Diego to attend. We leave at about 4 from Cherrie’s house and get there about 5:30 for a 6:00 class. Then, of course, drive back north, drop off Cherrie and I can get home by about 9:30 pm. Cherrie is suffering from two “frozen shoulders,” so she really doesn’t drive except close to home as it’s painful and she doesn’t feel as safe on the open road or freeway, so I’ve been doing the driving for awhile.

Anyway, you’ll see at least 4 recipes from the last class (this one, watermelon sangria, a shrimp and cheese toast kind of appetizer, a skirt steak one too). I think the skirt steak recipe would be a great addition to this salad and it would be a complete meal with just the two items.

Phillis made home made croutons, but you could buy ready-made ones if you don’t want to bother. The dressing should be made a few hours ahead so the flavors will meld. The corn could be grilled earlier in the day – you don’t want to serve it hot on the salad as it would wild the greens. Phillis grilled the corn on an indoor grill, and she put foil on the grill pan, greased it and the corn browned beautifully through the foil. Such easy cleanup.

Ideally, if you’re making this for a big platter presentation (it’s really beautiful), you’ll spread the Romaine lettuce you’ve chopped up, then the tomatoes, the corn, and the bacon last. You drizzle part of the dressing on top and serve the remaining dressing on the side.

What’s GOOD: such a lovely summer salad. I succumbed to the corn and ate some (not on my diet, but I enjoyed the few kernels that jumped onto my fork!), and all of it has a lovely full-flavored taste. I could have eaten an entire meal of this salad, it was so good. And as I mentioned, the skirt steak recipe coming up in a few days would be especially good with this.

What’s NOT: A bit more prep since you do need to make the dressing, grill the corn and crisp up some bacon. But oh-so worth it.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 (click link to open recipe)

  • Exported from MasterCook *

BLT Salad with Grilled Corn and Buttermilk Parm Dressing

Recipe By: Cooking class, Phillis Carey, 2018
Serving Size: 6
CROUTONS:
2 1/2 cups French bread — cubed
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
DRESSING:
1 tablespoon shallot — minced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon sugar
SALAD:
3 ears corn — husked
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 ounces Romaine lettuce — chopped (use hearts for best appearance)
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes — assorted types, chopped
6 slices thick-sliced bacon — cut in small strips
1/2 cup fresh basil — chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. For croutons, toss bread with melted butter, salt and pepper. Place on foil lined baking sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and set aside to cool.
  2. DRESSING: Combine shallot and vinegar in a medium bowl and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in buttermilk, mayo, Parm, salt, pepper and sugar. Cover and chill until ready to use, up to 2 days ahead. If you want to make this further ahead, don’t add the shallot and vinegar – wait until half an hour before using to add that, then use it within 2 days.
  3. CORN: Brush corn with oil, season with salt and pepper and grill until nicely brown on all sides. Cool and cut corn from the cobs.
  4. SALAD: Ideally serve this on a large platter (presentation is best this way). Arrange lettuce on the platter. Top with tomatoes, all over, then corn, then sprinkle on the cooked bacon. Drizzle with about 3 T. of the dressing, then sprinkle with croutons, parsley and the just chopped fresh basil. Serve with more dressing on the side.
    Per Serving (you may not use all the dressing, so the calorie count may be off): 712 Calories; 44g Fat (53.8% calories from fat); 17g Protein; 68g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 37mg Cholesterol; 1531mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on May 25th, 2018.

orange_smoked_paprika_vinaigrette

A vinaigrette riff – kind of regular ingredients – but with smoked paprika for flavor.

Smoked paprika may be an acquired taste. And really, until about 15 years ago I’d never even heard of it. Then it began showing up in food magazines, and cooking classes, and visiting Hungary, I enjoyed it in several things. I bought some in Hungary, and on a subsequent trip I bought the sweet, half-sharp (half sweet and half hot) and smoked. In fact I still have a vacuum sealed bag of sweet in my pantry. It’s about 5 years old (never opened) – I hope it’s still good. But I’m now out of smoked, so will have to find a local source, probably Penzey’s.

Awhile back, because I subscribe to a free book website called BookBub, they sent the daily missive with their list of special-priced e-books at Amazon. In the mix that day was a book called Modern Sauces: More than 150 Recipes for Every Cook, Every Day. It was a real bargain price – probably $1.99. For that day only. So I downloaded it to my Kindle.

If you really asked me, though, I’d tell you that I don’t much like looking at e-cookbooks. It’s not my favorite thing to go find my iPad stand so I can prop it  up on my kitchen counter to read and prepare a recipe. I suppose that makes me old-school in this regard. But I did order this one, because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have ordered the hard copy (for a whole lot more money, of course). So I did read it – in bed at night, over 2-4 evenings. And I liked the sound of a bunch of recipes in it. This is one of them. I brought my Kindle downstairs to my kitchen and flipped through all the recipes after I’d read the whole book, and I copied the recipes I liked into MasterCook. And here we are.

green_salad_w_orange_paprika_vinaigretteLately I’ve been eating a lot of salads. In that salad above I’ve got a mix of all kinds of veggies, plus a few sliced almonds and bocconcini, the little fresh mozzarella balls.

I’m on a diet. Probably one of these days I’ll write a post about it, but for now, I’m sticking to this new diet that has been very easy for me. In the mornings, I eat my regular yogurt bowl (unsweetened, Fage, plain) with a few berries, walnuts or almonds, a scoop of whey protein powder, a squirt of concentrated liquid turmeric, a drop of vitamin D & K, a tablespoon of ground flaxseed, and now SAM-e). That’s breakfast. Mid-morning I have a handful of nuts. Lunch is usually a bowl of soup – mostly vegetables in chicken/mushroom broth with either ground turkey or chicken, or even lean grass-fed beef. The soup is loaded with all kinds of non-carb vegetables. It’s satisfying and filling. I’ve made 2 big batches of this type of soup recently. Then another handful of nuts in the mid-afternoon, and a 6-ounce “shake” mixture of prebiotics mixed with unsweetened almond milk (which I’ve found I actually like!), and sometime during the day I also have a square or two of intense chocolate (dark, 80% or higher). That’s allowed.

Dinner is usually a salad with plenty of good veggies, some kind of protein (chicken, tuna, or even some lean pork) and a good olive-oil based dressing. And eggs are fine. What’s OUT of my diet is any sugar. Period. (He does say stevia – I use Truvia – is fine in small amounts.) No desserts, and fruit (except berries, although there are a few other fruits you can eat in very small quantities). And it’s working. That’s what I’ll tell you. I’m not eating any complex carbs at all – no bread of any kind, no flour, of course, no beans, no grains, no starchy vegetables (including peas and corn, of course). And no dairy except yogurt and a dib-dab of butter if it’s essential to cooking something. He also allows small portions of cheeses. Do I miss all those things? Sometimes. But it’s not because of hunger. I’m positively amazed that I’m not hungry in between meals, but I’m not. The handful of nuts satisfy any in-between hunger. I can have canned soybeans or edamame beans, so I plan to pick up some of the latter at TJ’s this week. They’d be good added to a soup – for texture. I can have red wine or an ounce of liquor if I want. In moderation of course. There’s a whole lot more complexities to the diet, but that’s it in a nutshell. It’s a diet proscribed by Dr. Stephen Gundry (a heart surgeon). He’s the one who wrote The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in Healthy Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain. The conundrum in that book is about the hidden threats in eating lectins, something that exists in lots of foods. There’s a cookbook that goes along with that as well. But his 2017 book is the one I’m following, Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution: Turn Off the Genes That Are Killing You and Your Waistline. If you’re interested, go to amazon and search for The Plant Paradox and you’ll get to a page with all of his books and books written by others about his 2 books, including several cookbooks, even one for an instant pot!

But because I’m now eating a salad at least once a day, I’m wanting more variety in dressings. There are a whole slew of oils you can have on this diet, but EVOO is the fav. No cream dressings at all, no sour cream or cream anything (except yogurt, I suppose). I’m fine with salads, as long as I can vary them with different proteins, veggie options and a different dressing every few days. Thank goodness! Hence this new dressing came into rotation.

The author of the Modern Sauces book mentioned that of all the salad dressings she makes (she considers a salad dressing a sauce) this one is her favorite. When an author or writer says that about any food, I’m all in. I made a half of a batch of this to try it out. It’s gone already, so I’ll likely make it again soon. You may see more salad dressings here in coming months. And more veggies, I suppose, in one form or another. Probably not any desserts, though, unless they’re mainly fresh berries! And I’ll still be preparing a protein entrée, so you’ll see some of those recipes. I went to a cooking class (actually 2) recently and I’ll be writing up all those recipes. I took a teeny-tiny taste of each item so I could decide if it was blog-worthy. All of them were.

What’s GOOD: loved the smoked paprika scent/taste in this. Different. Good, for sure.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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Fresh Orange-Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette

Recipe By: from Modern Sauces, 2017
Serving Size: 4-8

3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon orange zest — lightly packed, finely grated
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar — or substitute Truvia or stevia
2 drops sriracha sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup EVOO

1. In a small bowl whisk together the orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, paprika, sugar [or sweetener], Sriracha and salt, until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Gradually whisk in oil a little at a time, until the dressing is creamy and blended.
2. Taste and adjust the flavor balance and seasoning. Whisk again to blend just before using. Will keep for a week.
Per Serving: 124 Calories; 14g Fat (95.7% calories from fat); trace Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 67mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on May 13th, 2017.

green_goddess_dressing_spoon

A winner of a recipe from the folks at Cook’s Illustrated.

You’ve read here before that I record all the TV shows from America’s Test Kitchen and from Cook’s Country. I’m not sure which one discussed this recipe, but it’s credited to C.C. (the magazine) in April of 2006. Here on my blog I have another version of Green Goddess that is supposedly from the source, a hotel in San Francisco. But, the folks at ATK wanted to make it even better, and now that I’ve made it myself, I agree, this version is just wonderful. And much better than the other one.

What’s different? Well, first off, you soak dried tarragon (not fresh) in some water and lemon juice for 15 minutes. That obviously brings out the tarragon flavor. I think I like dried tarragon better than fresh anyway. I have a very hard time growing tarragon here – perhaps our summers are too hot. Don’t know . . . so what I have is French tarragon. Then you mix the tarragon concoction with mayo, a little bit of sour cream, fresh parsley, garlic, and one full sized, good-quality anchovy fillet that’s rinsed and blotted with a paper towel. This is whizzed up in the blender. Now, I also added the chives to the blender – in the recipe it said to add them after whizzing in the blender. Then I tasted it for salt and pepper (didn’t think it needed either) and let it chill. Right out of the blender it didn’t wow me at all, but several hours later, after melding the flavors, I thought it was delish.

green_goddess_in_saladAccording to the recipe, the dressing only keeps for 24 hours. I wasn’t sure why that would be – after 2 days (so I was a whole day past it’s use by date) I made one last salad for myself to use it up, and what I noticed was that the garlic had overpowered the dressing – that kind of sharp, not-so-good hot taste. As a family of one, I would not make this size (to serve 8) as I’d never be able to use it up. So keep that in mind when you make it – only make enough to use in 24 hours!

What’s GOOD: the tarragon flavor, which is part of what makes Green Goddess a Green Goddess, is perfect – just the right amount. The anchovy fillet is not noticeable at all – kind of like in Caesar dressing – it’s a good umami flavor. It’s a lovely green color. Rich. Altogether delicious.

What’s NOT: only that you’re supposed to use it up within 24 hours.

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Green Goddess Dressing

Recipe By: Cook’s Country
Serving Size: 8

2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup fresh parsley — roughly chopped
1 medium clove garlic — chopped
1 anchovy fillet — rinsed and dried
1/4 cup chopped chives
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a small bowl, combine the tarragon, lemon juice, and water. Allow those ingredients to sit for 15 minutes.
2. Using a blender, process the tarragon mixture, mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, garlic and anchovies until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the blender jar as necessary.
3. Transfer to bowl, stir in the chives, season with salt and pepper. Chill about an hour before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
4. Can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator up to 1 day. (After 24 hours the garlic overpowers the flavors.)
Per Serving: 168 Calories; 19g Fat (96.0% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 11mg Cholesterol; 141mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on December 13th, 2016.

meyer_lemon_vinaigrette1

A simple dressing – amped  up with the tiniest amount of balsamic and  mayo. But loads of garlic give it flavor.

Running out of salad dressing is a semi-catastrophe for me. I like home made salad dressings, and now that I’m a family of one, when I make them, they last awhile. So I make smaller batches. This one was just perfect for that, as it made enough for about 5-6 salads. I often make myself a green salad with oodles of veggies in it, for lunch. I either have a hard boiled egg to put in it, or some leftover chicken. I used to buy lots of Trader Joe’s prepared salads (they carry a bunch and they’re quite inexpensive) but I’ve gotten tired of them, and they also aren’t very discerning when it comes to chopping up Romaine ribs. I don’t like the base ends of Romaine (do you?) so I have to pick them out. Once, with one of those prepared salads, after removing all the big chunks of Romaine ribs I had a very, very small salad! That may have been the day I decided I really should just make my own. I have a certain combo of things that I like in my salads: thinly chopped celery, a few sugar snap peas, a radish, a carrot, maybe a bit of chopped fennel, and either Feta or some of the Mexican Cotija cheese crumbled over it.

This particular recipe came from Sunset Magazine, and the people who tried it gave it a 5-star rating. I knew I’d try it at some point. It was in with a stack of magazine clippings I’ve recently added to my computer. I’m so happy to NOT have little piles of them here and there. The joy of the internet is that when I spot a recipe in a magazine I just go to my computer and do a search and 99% of the time I can find it online and it’s such an easy task to transfer it to my MasterCook software. If I’ve read the recipe when I’m out somewhere, I type it into my smart phone app Evernote, then when I get home I just look it up. I’ve found, after years of doing this, that it helps to put in, for instance: meyer lemon vinaigrette sunset magazine. It will find it right away. Putting in just the title will give you 1001 results. So do write down the source and use it in your search string.

The dressing: It took little or no time to put it together. I smashed the garlic clove first, measured out the lemon juice and oil too. A note about the MEYER LEMONS. Not everybody can get them, I know, so my advice is to use regular lemons and add either a little bit of orange juice (about 15% or so) instead of lemon juice, or add a bit more sugar. Meyer lemons are a hybrid of Mandarin orange and a regular lemon, so the juice is slightly sweeter. I have a very prolific Meyer lemon tree outside my front door that just keeps coming nearly year ‘round. It’s an old tree, and I suspect it’s in the beginning of “old age,” so it’s not producing as many as it did before, but then, so am I, and I don’t use them as frequently now that my DH is gone. So maybe the lemon tree and I are aging gracefully together.

What’s GOOD: the overall CLEAN flavor. Even with the speck of balsamic and mayo (neither of which I could discern) it had a lively, bright taste. The lemon zest gives it a bit of zing. Altogether lovely. Do I like it better than any of my favorite salad dressings? Hmm. Perhaps not, but I liked it for a change.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. I liked the dressing.

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Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Sunset Magazine
Serving Size: 6

Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
3 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons mayonnaise
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cloves garlic — minced or smashed

1. Whisk ingredients together in a bowl until smooth. Keeps about a week, chilled.
2. MEYER LEMONS: If you don’t have them, use regular lemons and replace a bit of the juice with orange juice and/or add a bit more sugar. Meyer lemons are sweeter than regular lemons.
Per Serving: 71 Calories; 8g Fat (94.9% calories from fat); trace Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; trace Cholesterol; 124mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, Salads, on February 8th, 2015.

arugula_greens_salad_oranges_peppered_walnuts

 It seems like most green salads, these days, are filled with all kinds of non-vegetable goodies. In this case, instead of tomatoes, or sugar snap peas, celery and carrots, this one has crumbles of blue cheese, peppered walnuts, some orange slices, and it’s tossed in a sweet honey and apple cider vinegar dressing.

A few weeks ago I needed to take a salad to a church event (a ladies luncheon). Most everyone brought a salad, a couple made dessert. I went through all kinds of salad recipes looking for one that interested me. Finally found one in a relatively newer cookbook I have called From Terra’s Table, featuring recipes from the author’s restaurant and some other San Diego restaurateurs. But I changed it all around. It called for arugula and radicchio. I couldn’t find the radicchio, so had to substitute greens that contained some radicchio and colorful red greenery. The recipe called for walnuts that were coated in a spice egg white mixture and baked. I decided to make my favorite Peppered Pecans, but instead of pecans (the way I usually make it) I used walnuts instead. I had mostly walnut oil for the dressing, but not enough to make this, so had to substitute hazelnut oil for part of it. I had some good Humboldt Fog blue which I did crumble in the salad, and just because I had a nice, big juicy orange in my kitchen, I decided to add that as well.

Hence, this recipe is not true (much) to the original recipe. I altered the dressing a little bit. I altered the greens. And I made different nuts. So, really, it’s almost a new recipe. I’m sorry my photo isn’t better above – I used my cell phone at the event and didn’t have the best light.

What’s GOOD: I really liked the dressing, but it is on the sweet side. I also enjoyed the orange in this, and the texture from the peppered pecans for sure. I used less of the blue cheese since I think blue can overpower a salad. I’d have liked some sturdier greens in this (maybe some Romaine, but not a lot) because those multi-colored greens are so very tender. I’ve changed that in the recipe below, but you can use your own judgment when you make it yourself. It’s very pretty – especially with the orange slices visible.

What’s NOT: nothing really, other than you do have to prepare the walnuts, the dressing, and at the last minute toss it all and peel & slice the orange. Not something I’d make for a weeknight dinner, but great to take to someone else’s home if this is all you’re making.

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Arugula and Radicchio Salad with Blue Cheese, Oranges and Peppered Walnuts

Recipe By: Adapted from a recipe from (now closed) Terra Restaurant, San Diego
Serving Size: 5 (maybe more)

PEPPERED WALNUTS:
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup walnut halves
HONEY-WALNUT VINAIGRETTE:
3/8 cup honey
3/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup walnut oil — plus 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon shallots — minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme — minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
SALAD:
1/2 pound arugula
1/4 pound radicchio — sliced (or use multicolored greens)
2 cups Romaine lettuce — chopped
1/4 cup blue cheese — (I used Humboldt Fog)
1 whole orange — peeled, thinly sliced

1. WALNUTS: Place a baking sheet or jelly roll pan next to your range before you start.
2. In a small bowl combine sugar, salt and pepper, and stir to combine.
3. Heat a large wok or heavy skillet over high heat. Add nuts and toss until walnuts are warm, about 1 minute.
4. Sprinkle nuts with HALF of the sugar mixture and toss until the sugar melts. Add remaining sugar mixture and toss again until sugar melts, then IMMEDIATELY pour out onto the baking sheet. Spread nuts out and allow to cool. The nuts won’t absorb all of the sugar mixture – it caramelizes, but just throw out the extra. The nuts will keep, stored in a plastic bag, for about 3-4 weeks. (Allow pan to cool, then fill with hot water – I use a nonstick pan for this.)
5. VINAIGRETTE: Combine the liquid ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a jar, add other ingredients, shake and set aside (extra dressing will keep for 2 weeks, refrigerated). You won’t use all the dressing on this salad.
6. SALAD: In a large bowl combine the arugula, Romaine and radicchio (or greens). Add enough salad dressing so the leaves shine. Taste for seasonings, then add the crumbled cheese on top, add peppered walnuts and orange slices. Serve immediately.
Per Serving (incorrect as you’ll have dressing left over): 611 Calories; 53g Fat (74.2% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 35g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 4mg Cholesterol; 377mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, Salads, on March 16th, 2014.

crunchy_napa_cabbage_salad

Oh gosh, this salad is just SO good. I think I could eat this every other night for the rest of my life and not get tired of it. Does that tell you anything? Like – – you need to make this? It’s that good!

So what is this stuff? It’s mostly Napa cabbage cut into narrow shreds, a whole bunch of radishes, some snow peas (or sugar snap, because that’s what I had on hand), some green onions and toasted almonds. All that cloaked in a really delicious mayo-based dressing that’s sweet with a little bit of sugar, sour with a bit of white wine vinegar (I used white balsamic), and flavored with ground ginger, a bit of cayenne, a garlic clove and just a smidgen of toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. Then you add a cup of mayo. The salad part can be made ahead; so can the dressing; then you just combine them before serving, although you don’t use all the dressing. The salad is best served immediately, or within a few hours. The next day the cabbage is somewhat wilted, but the salad is still edible. Not at its peak, but still tasty. I don’t eat left over green salad cuz the green leaves just get limp – and to me they’re inedible. This cabbage salad was nowhere near that, so it IS definitely edible one day later.

The CRUNCH? It comes from the cabbage, the radishes, the peas and even the toasted almonds. All of it is crunchy. The origin of this recipe is Sunset Magazine. A month or two ago the magazine did a 25-year retrospective of their favorite recipes. This recipe – THIS ONE – was the #1 nominated recipe (from both readers and editors). More reason to make it. Again and again and again.

What makes it special? I’d say it’s the salad dressing. It has just a hint of Asian flavor (from the soy sauce and toasted sesame oil) but it’s very subtle. Truly, it is subtle. And I particularly liked the hint of sweet in it too. And the faint hint of heat from the cayenne. And it’s probably from the variety of veggies. The combo is just different. I don’t know who came up with this recipe, but I tip my hat to her/him.

What’s GOOD: absolutely everything. Love-love-love this salad. It’s going to go onto my favs list if that’s any indication of just how good it is.
What’s NOT: Nothing, other than the time required to slice and shred the veggies. But worth it, for sure.

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Crunchy Napa Cabbage Slaw

Recipe By: Sunset, January 2014
Serving Size: 8

1 pound Napa cabbage — coarsely shredded
12 ounces snow peas — strings removed, thinly sliced (or sugar snap peas)
1 1/3 cups radishes — thinly sliced
1 1/3 cups green onions — (including green tops), thinly sliced
1 1/3 cups cilantro — lightly packed, chopped
2/3 cup slivered almonds — toasted
CREAMY SOY DRESSING: (you’ll use 3/4 of this to dress the above salad)
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 clove garlic — peeled, minced
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup mayonnaise

1. In a large bowl, combine cabbage, snow peas, radishes, green onions, and cilantro.
2. DRESSING: Whisk together sugar, white wine vinegar, soy sauce, garlic clove, ground ginger and toasted sesame oil, and cayenne. Whisk in 1 cup mayonnaise.
3. Add about three-quarters of dressing and the almonds to cabbage mixture; mix to coat. Taste and mix in more dressing if you like. Pour into a serving bowl.
Per Serving (not accurate as you don’t use all the dressing in the recipe): 342 Calories; 30g Fat (74.5% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 10mg Cholesterol; 306mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on March 14th, 2014.

apple_cider_vinaigrette_close

The other night I made the best salad. I can’t say that on any ordinary evening I feel my green salads are exceptional. They’re GOOD, but not exceptional. And usually they’re good because I make my own salad dressings. This one, though, was about the salad itself, and it was likely enhanced because of the dressing. I’ll tell you about what was in it down below. . . it’s not like I could even come up with a recipe, exactly. But I will tell you what I put in this one.

The dressing, though, is what I’m mostly telling you about today. But first, I want to talk a bit about vinegar. If you read any of the foodie magazines, you’ve likely read somewhere about the sad state of apple cider vinegar in our country. Most of the stuff we buy at the grocery store (Heinz included) is just the straight white vinegar with a little bit of brownish coloring in it. It’s not cider vinegar at all. apple_cider_vinaigrette_in_cruet

According to Wikipedia, apple cider vinegar a type of vinegar [that is supposed to be] made from cider or apple must and has a pale to medium amber color. Unpasteurized or organic ACV contains mother of vinegar, which has a cobweb-like appearance and can make the vinegar look slightly congealed.

If you’re lucky enough to find apple cider vinegar that comes from some local farms, all the better, but on a bulk note, I generally buy Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar. According to their website,

“Certified Bragg Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar is unfiltered, unheated, unpasteurized and 5% acidity. Contains the amazing Mother of Vinegar which occurs naturally as strand-like enzymes of connected protein molecules. . . Bragg Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar is made from delicious, healthy, organically grown apples.”

bragg_vinegarAt upscale markets you can sometimes find lovely winery-produced wine vinegar and at organic farms (particularly apple orchards, I’d guess) you may be able to buy apple cider vinegar. Since I see that rarely, as I mentioned, I buy Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar Organic Raw — 32 fl oz – sometimes even at my regular grocery store. I prefer to buy the unfiltered that contains the “mother,” a clump of yeasty, spongy stuff that you’ll sometimes find in the bottom of a bottle of vinegar (only the apple cider type).

Back to this dressing, though . . . I went to my most recent salad dressing cookbook I bought last year, Vinaigrettes & Other Dressings: 60 Sensational recipes to Liven Up Greens, Grains, Slaws, and Every Kind of Salad. By Michele Anna Jordan. I leafed through, looking at every recipe. I’ve added one of her recipes in this book to my regular rotation, the Molasses Honey Vinaigrette. And I settled on this one to try something different. I did make two tiny changes – I used apple juice concentrate mixed with a little water (so it may have been slightly more concentrated than her recipe; and after tasting the dressing, I decided it was just a tad too acidic, so I added another T. of oil.

Why use Bragg?

Simple: it’s a true cider vinegar made with the must of apples, not just a white vinegar that’s colored to look like cider vinegar.

According to the author, she prefers to use this dressing on a cabbage slaw or on a chicken or duck salad. (I used it on a green salad!) She offers 4 variations on the recipe below – I have included them in the recipe below, although I haven’t tried any of these variations. A spicy version: adding 2 T. apricot, kumquat or fig jam and  3-4 garlic cloves (wow, 3-4?). Another variation has 1/2 cup pureed fresh mango in it and cilantro. A 3rd one adds 2 T. hot pepper jam, like jalapeno jelly; yet a 4th adds 1-2 tsp. chipotle chile powder and a T. of crème fraiche.

So, the mixture is combined in a glass jar, or as I did, in my handy-dandy Chef’n Emulstir 2.0, Salad Dressing Mixer. It was a gift for Christmas, and I will say, I use it a lot. After I make a salad dressing, of course, it resides in the refrigerator. Depending on what kind of oil I’ve used, it may be really firm (as in EVOO) and a bit thinner if I’ve used canola oil. I take the Chef’n Emulstir out of the refrigerator when I start fixing dinner, so that by the time I’m ready to toss the salad, it’s warmed up and will pour out of the spout and doesn’t clump on the salad. First, though, you grab the jar and flex the green handle thingy, which rotates inside the bottle, hence stirring it up well – emulsifying it as best I can.

The SALAD, then . . . for a salad to serve 3 people (we had a houseguest, our friend Joe Casali, of the Italian mushroom story) I used about 1 1/2 cups of Romaine, about 3/4 cup of arugula that I chopped up coarsely, 1-2 leaves of red leaf lettuce, 1/4 cup chopped-up sugar snap peas, about 1/2 cup chopped celery, mostly inner pieces, 1 medium tomato, chopped up in fairly small pieces, about 3 tablespoons of Feta cheese, crumbled, 2 T. toasted almonds, a few dried cranberries (craisins), a few pepitas, and lastly after dressing and plating the salads, I added 2 slices of avocado on each one.

What’s GOOD: I liked this dressing a lot. I have just enough for another salad. The author says to use up all the dressing in one go, but I didn’t do that. I’ll add an addendum here if I find the dressing doesn’t taste great at the 2nd iteration.
What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. All dressings are best the day they’re made, but that doesn’t keep me from making larger quantities. Nothing in dressings can really spoil except with very long term storage (the oil could turn rancid, but that’s a long shot).

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Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Adapted very slightly from Michele Anna Jordan, from her book Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings
Serving Size: 6

2 tablespoons apple juice, frozen concentrate
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar — [I use Bragg brand]
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil — [I used about a tablespoon more]

1. In a glass jar add the apple juice concentrate and water. Stir or shake to combine.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and shake well before pouring over a green salad of your choice. Also goes well on a cabbage slaw or a chicken salad.
NOTES: VARIATIONS (I haven’t tried any of these):
(1) Zesty – add 2 T. apricot, kumquat or fig jam and 3-4 minced garlic cloves. Serve on pork or pork sliders.
(2) Mango – add 1/2 cup fresh mango puree and 2 T cilantro leaves. This one is best on fruit salads.
(3) Spicy – add 2 T. hot pepper jam – serve with chevre cheese and leafy greens.
(4) Smoky – add 1-2 tsp chipotle chili powder and a T. of creme fraiche. This particularly goes well with carrots, jicama and radishes.
Per Serving: 130 Calories; 14g Fat (91.8% calories from fat); trace Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 237mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on August 25th, 2013.

ruby_vinaigrette

Since you probably already know that I make 99% of my own salad dressings, it’s no surprise I’ve made yet another one from that new cookbook. This one an Italian style.

We had a big group on our boat for dinner, mostly family, but also friends. I really don’t cook on the boat – the galley is so small, the equipment is minimal and the oven either works on high or low – nothing in between, and the tiny grill won’t cook enough for more than 4 people. Cooking on the boat isn’t fun for me, so I went to a local San Diego restaurant chain, Filippi’s, and got a big tray of ricotta lasagna with meat sauce. On the several occasions when I have ordered lasagna from them, I request their marinara sauce, but this time I decided to try the meat sauce. I could have ordered their green salad, but salad is such a no-brainer, I decided to just make a dressing and Dave bought a big bag of lettuce stuff. Very simple. The lasagna was the star of the meal anyway.

The recipe came from that new cookbook I’m in love with – Vinaigrettes & Other Dressings: 60 Sensational recipes to Liven Up Greens, Grains, Slaws, and Every Kind of Salad. This time I chose a dressing that was mostly a tart vinegar-based one, since that’s what we generally get when we order green salad in an Italian restaurant, right? This one has a red wine vinegar base, and all I can tell you is that the dressing will only be as good as the quality of the red wine vinegar. I chose one I had in my pantry that was fairly mild – it had a thin quality to it, so my dressing didn’t turn out very ruby colored. If I had used some of the very dark vinegar, I’m sure it would be reddish in color and it would have a more intense red wine taste too. The recipe doesn’t call for using a blender (just a jar, combine and shake), but I wanted the shallots to be really finely minced, so I did use a blender for that and the garlic. Besides, when you do it in a blender, it will emulsify much better

The photo shows the dressing when it was 2 days old, and it hadn’t separated, so the blender did good work for me! I made the dressing according to the recipe (shallot, garlic, vinegar, salt, EVOO, pepper and Italian herbs – oregano and thyme). Then I tasted it. The balance of oil to vinegar was mostly okay, but it was more acidic than I wanted. Adding a tetch more oil didn’t do it, so I chose to add about a tablespoon of sugar. Definitely not something most people would want to do with an Italian dressing, but I liked it MUCH better that way. If you decide to make this, it’s your choice whether to add the sugar or not. I’ve made it optional in the adapted recipe below. Definitely it’s not authentic.

The base recipe doesn’t include lemon juice, garlic or herbs, and the author includes 2 variations: (1) this one, and (2) a richer one with anchovy paste and lemon juice. I did a little combination – since I like lemon juice and had some fresh squeezed in the refrigerator anyway, plus the garlic. Didn’t add the anchovy paste as our 6-year old grandson would be there, and although he’s very adventurous about food, I thought the anchovy might be a turn-off for him. Next time I might try it.

What’s GOOD: great, basic Italian dressing. Liked the addition of the sugar, though it’s not authentic. A real Italian might berate you if they figure it out! Keeps for at least a week.
What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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Ruby Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Vinaigrette and Other dressings (Jordan) 2013
Serving Size: 6

1 small shallot — or red onion
Kosher salt to taste
2 whole garlic cloves — minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar — (use very good quality)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons Italian herbs — dried (oregano & thyme)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar — scant (or Splenda) [optional – my addition]

Notes: this version made my way in the blender – can also be made in a jar and shaken – just mince the shallots and garlic very, very fine. The original recipe (the “base” recipe) doesn’t use garlic, herbs, or lemon juice. The sugar was my addition. Another variation includes anchovy paste, or a couple of anchovy fillets, if desired.
1. Start the blender on low and drop in the shallot and garlic. Whiz until finely minced. Add salt, then gather the remaining ingredients while you allow garlic and shallot to marinate in the salt.
2. Add the red wine vinegar, herbs, pepper and sugar, if using. Blend until smooth, scraping sides of any shallot & garlic if needed.
3. Through the screw top slowly add the EVOO, blending on low. It may spatter – if so, put a towel over your hand. Taste the dressing – add more oil or vinegar if needed. Pour into a jar and allow to sit for about an hour to allow the flavors to develop.
Per Serving: 171 Calories; 18g Fat (92.7% calories from fat); trace Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; trace Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on August 21st, 2013.

black_peppercorn_dressing

If you like ranch dressing, you might enjoy this change of pace – it’s still the mixture of sour cream and mayo, but instead of the herby mixture from the packet, you add some of Penzey’s peppercorn salad dressing base that’s all about black pepper.

In my youth, I can recall watching my father piston the pepper shaker that lived on a little lazy susan in the center of our kitchen table. He shook that pepper onto everything, but the most noticeable was on top of his over-easy eggs that were nestled just-so on a piece of toast, and he would use his knife and fork to completely mince the egg. He didn’t like egg white particularly, so if he chopped and chopped, the yolk and white were all mixed up and it was palatable that way. But then he’d start in with the pepper shaker. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could eat an egg with so much pepper on it. But then, I had a naïve palate, as most children do. As I’ve aged I seem to like more and more pepper (thanks, Dad!). So much so that my DH has even asked me to not put so much on his food, since I generally add extra on servings.     I’m very limited with the salt – I’m super sensitive to overly salted foods, so I under-salt things. But pepper, oh that’s another thing altogether!

penzeys_creamy_peppercorn_dressing_baseA few weeks ago my friend Cherrie and I, after a cooking class in San Diego, made a quick trip to the new Penzey’s store in Hillcrest. It took no time to get there from our class site in Pacific Beach, and we shopped for about half an hour. I was out of several things, actually. I bought some Vietnamese cinnamon, ample ground coriander, garam masala, Sarawak white peppercorns, new nutmeg pods (my aging whole nutmegs were at least 15 years old and even though some have said they should be fine, I only had two left, so I tossed them and bought new) and a bottle of the creamy peppercorn dressing base.

And I also bought a cellophane bag of extra bold peppercorns. I’d never heard of extra bold peppercorns, but penzeys_peppercorns_extraboldsince I have this addiction thing, then I’ll likely like it. It’s still in the bag as I write this, and I’ll need to put it in a pepper grinder (I’ll have to buy another one since I don’t have one that I’m not already using).

Picture at left shows the extra bold peppercorns.

It took no time whatsoever to make the dressing – the dressing base (which contains other stuff (sugar, salt, garlic, thyme and parsley) reconstitutes in water for a few minutes, then gets mixed with 1/2 cup of mayo and 1/2 cup of sour cream. I used a whisk (photo at top) because I wanted the mayo and sour cream to be fully mixed. Without using the whisk there were just a few little globs of either the sour cream or mayo – not sure which.

What’s GOOD: loved the ranch dressing style, but particularly liked the peppercorn taste. My DH just LOVED it. I mean he really loved it. He asked about it – what was it, where did it come from, had I made it, do we have more . . . yes, we have more. I’ll be making it again when I’m weary of all of the other salad dressing rotations I make.

What’s NOT: gee, nothing. It’s cinchy easy to make. It should keep for awhile too.

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