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Just finished reading The German Girl: A Novel by Correa. It chronicles the story of a wealthy German Jewish family in Berlin, as the Nazis arrive and make life a living hell. The family is lucky (I guess you could say this) to be allowed to purchase passage on the M.S. St. Louis, a passenger liner, to take them to “the Americas.” The destination is actually Cuba. The story is told from two voices – the teenage daughter in this story, and from a current-day distant family member who is trying to learn about her ancestry. Of the 900+ passengers on the ship, only a few were allowed to disembark since the Cuban President decided he needed more money to accept them. Most families had no money left, as the Reich had taken nearly all of their assets. The daughter and her very eccentric mother were allowed to stay in Cuba.  The remaining passengers are rejected by the U.S. too, and eventually return to Europe, where most of the Jews end up dying in concentration camps. The story goes back and forth from the 1939 journey to current day as the link between the two women is slowly revealed. I had a tough time sometimes, tracking the people in this book, but the story was very riveting. It’s based on facts about the ship (see Wikipedia link above if you’re interested). A shameful chapter in history.

Recently finished reading a magnificent historical novel. Not new. Philippa Gregory has been a favorite author of mine for a couple of decades. You may remember her most famous book, The Other Boleyn Girl, published some years ago. I thought that was a really great book. I’ve read other books by Gregory, but most recently I read The King’s Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels). The time period is the 1450s to 1541, mostly under the rule of King Henry VIII, the infamous womanizer and wife/Queen-killer. The man who cursed Rome/the Pope because he wanted his first marriage annulled because Queen Catherine couldn’t produce a living male heir. And subsequently made himself the head of the church in England in order to do so. It was a Catholic country at the time. This story (it’s fiction, but woven with intricate historical detail) is from the voice of a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine, Margaret of York, later titled Countess of Salisbury, but a Plantagenet in her own right (which is key to the later events in the book). Certainly I’ve read other novels over the years that dealt with Henry VIII, but not with this much breadth of info. What a wicked, sinful man he was. And did I say tyrant. Wow.  I could hardly put it down, through its nearly 600 pages. In the author’s notes at the end, she shares relatively recent medical info that suggests Henry probably suffered from a rare problem, Kell positive blood type, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths IF the mother has the more common Kell negative blood type. And that in his later years, he may have had McLeod syndrome, a disease only found in Kell positive individuals. Around the age of 40 it causes physical degeneration and personality changes resulting in paranoia, depression and irrational behavior. All of those King Henry VIII had in spades. If you read the book, you might read the author’s notes (at the end) before reading the book. If you like historical fiction (I love any book about English history) you’ll just love this one. It’s interesting, though, as I think about the many books I’ve read covering this era in English history, that each book presented its hero/heroine as the most innocent and worthy individual vying for the crown of England. I remember thinking Anne Boleyn was dealt with so badly during her life (and certainly her beheading), and yet reading this book, I completely reversed my opinion. Anne Boleyn was called a wh–e by most people during the years she shared Henry’s bed. The “curse” from the title pertains to Henry’s inability or the curse on the Tudors, that caused him to fail in producing a male heir. In any case, none of Henry’s wives should have died for it – likely it was all Henry’s fault anyway. Just read this one, okay?

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one, too!

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

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 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.

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

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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.

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

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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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Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC)

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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.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on August 11th, 2013.

orange_vanilla_vinaigrette

Have blender? An orange?  A lemon? With regular pantry items you can make this succulent salad dressing. Add some kind of fruit to a green salad and you’re all set. Particularly nice are fresh chunks of mango and pomegranate seeds.

Before I tell you about the dressing, won’t you just look at that cute little pitcher in the photo? It belonged to Dave’s mother. It’s the finest of crystal – ultra thin glass, and notice that the top handle doesn’t connect. It must be held very carefully or small fingers will slip right through the gap. But it’s so pretty and I love to use it. (Usually for cream when we serve coffee to guests – although it doesn’t hold much.)

This recipe came from Vita-mix, the manufacturer of my new powerful blender. I made it right after I got the blender, and then when we attended a cooking class for the Vita-mix, the demonstrators did this dressing as well. I’ve made it twice now, and have some in the refrigerator as I write this. It needs to be used in tonight’s dinner for sure since it’s been 3 days . . . this dressing will keep for 4 only.

The only tedious thing about making it is peeling and seeding the orange and lemon, the seeding particularly. Our home grown lemons have ample seeds of various sizes! But it’s worth it. Your blender needs to have some power in it otherwise it won’t grind up all the citrus membranes. But they’re good for you, and they give the dressing some viciousness. Just be careful when you make it – the oil has to be drizzled in through the removable cap in the lid – and it splatters – so just be aware!

What’s GOOD: the citrus taste – the dressing has just a hint of bitter, but also sweet from the honey. Goes best with a fruit-enhanced salad, I think. It’s best without a lot of vegetables added – mostly greens.
What’s NOT: nothing except that it doesn’t keep for more than 4 days.

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Orange Vanilla Vinaigrette

Recipe By: adapted from the Vita-Mix Blender cookbook
Serving Size: 12

1 medium orange — peeled, all pith and seeds removed
1/2 medium lemon — peeled, all pith and seeds removed
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey — or more if needed
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil — plus 2 tablespoons

Notes: this is a good dressing for a green salad, but do add some kind of fruit (fresh mango and pomegranate seeds, or dried cranberries if that’s what you have on hand). If nuts are available, add those to this salad too, for a bit of crunch. Dressing will keep for 4 days only.
1. In a good high speed blender place the orange and lemon, both cut up into small chunks, vinegar, honey and vanilla. Whiz until the mixture is a fine puree.
2. Reduce speed to its lowest setting and very, very carefully and slowly pour the olive oil in the removable top until the mixture has emulsifies. Add salt and pepper to taste. Taste the mixture – it will have a slight bitterness. Taste it with a leaf of lettuce. Adjust the honey or oil if needed to suit your own palate.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups
Per Serving: 131 Calories; 14g Fat (90.4% calories from fat); trace Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; trace Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, Veggies/sides, on July 22nd, 2013.

curried_apple_pecan_broccoli_slaw

Need a really quick, easy and healthy slaw for summer? You could eat this any time of year, but it’s perfect for summer entertaining. It starts with the pre-cut packaged broccoli slaw from the grocery store. The rest is cinchy easy. The apple and pecans are what make this – well, maybe the curry powder added to the dressing also gives it an interesting twist.

It’s not often that I use a prepackaged anything, yet I know the package of broccoli slaw at the grocery store is probably quite healthy. It’s nothing but broccoli STEMS and carrots, I think. You could make your own if you have sufficient broccoli stems and carrots on hand. The mixture is tossed with a yogurt/mayo dressing which has the addition of some curry powder (I used a medium – meaning hot – heat level in mine and liked it a lot). The dressing is nothing but equal quantities of yogurt and mayo (and you could probably use nonfat or low fat of either or both), honey, rice vinegar, pepper and curry powder. Easy.

If you have some red cabbage on hand, add that to the salad mixture – my store bought package didn’t have it included. You do have to cut up a tart apple into julienne pieces – I peeled a green Granny Smith, cut off the domes on all 4 sides of the apple, put it through my alligator slicer and it made short julienne. That was really, really easy to do. Then I added pecans.

The nice thing about this is that it keeps for days. I made this the day of a summer dinner party we were having, and it was still wonderful 4 days later. As I’m writing this, we’re going to someone else’s home today for a barbecue and I’m going to use the 2nd package of broccoli slaw and just add another apple and more dressing to what I have left over from the first batch. The recipe came from Lydia over at The Perfect Pantry, a blog I’ve been reading for years and years.

What’s GOOD: the crunch for sure – of everything, including the pecans. The apple and pecans make this salad (to me anyway) and the dressing is very light. It’s got to be very healthy as well!
What’s NOT: gee whiz, nothing at all. It’s easy to make and great for a crowd.

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Curried Apple and Pecan Broccoli Slaw

Recipe By: From The Perfect Pantry blog
Serving Size: 6

DRESSING:
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt — (Lydia used nonfat)
2 teaspoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
SALAD:
6 ounces broccoli slaw mix — (3 cups) or 1 cup each of shredded broccoli stems, carrot and red cabbage
1 large tart apple — cut into matchsticks or thin slices
2 tablespoons pecan halves — or more to taste (2 to 3)

1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients. Add the broccoli slaw and apple slices, and toss gently until all ingredients are well combined.
2. In a nonstick dry frying pan over medium heat, toast the pecan halves for 2-3 minutes, until they are fragrant but not browning. Add them to the salad, and toss.
3. Cover the salad with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.
4. Serve cold or at room temperature. Will keep for several days.
Per Serving: 59 Calories; 3g Fat (40.4% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 1mg Cholesterol; 20mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on June 30th, 2013.

molasses_honey_vinaigrette

A happy camper am I. Could that be a song? Camping isn’t required to make or serve this delicious salad dressing.

Scanning through my new favorite salad dressing book (I think I’ve made 3 or 4 of them from this book in the last 3 weeks) Vinaigrettes & Other Dressings: 60 Sensational recipes to Liven Up Greens, Grains, Slaws, and Every Kind of Salad, this one is a winner for sure. You don’t need a blender, just a wide-mouthed sealing type jar. It starts with a little bit of molasses and honey. I warmed them in the microwave since they were both viscous, for sure. Then I added in the other ingredients – sherry vinegar, minced shallot, salt and extra virgin olive oil. Chopped pecans are also in the ingredient list. Easy peasy. Shake it up and set aside.

With each and every recipe the author, Michelle Anna Jordan, recommends what kind(s) of salads each dressing – in her opinion – are best for. In this case she suggested a cold sweet potato salad and a root vegetable salad. Well, I thought it would be really good with a rougher lettuce salad – by rougher I mean some cabbage, even head lettuce, Romaine, but not the softer tender greens so much. I had some Savoy cabbage, celery and did mix in some arugula, Romaine and head lettuce. As I write this, I’m going to make this salad again – I still have some of the roasted figs left over. So tomorrow I’ll give you a little overview of the salad itself. I didn’t make the dressing with the pecans – we were going to a family dinner where there is a nut allergy, so I left them out, but when I make the salad this time I’ll add in pecans. Pecans are one of the few nuts that don’t seem to absorb dressing (and get soggy). Perhaps if I were making this to keep around for awhile I’d just keep the nuts out and toss them in when I toss the salad.

The recipe indicates the dressing will keep for up to 3 days. I don’t know why it wouldn’t be good for a week for sure, but that’s just my opinion. I haven’t tested the theory as the dressing was used up in just 4 days at my house.

What’s GOOD: it’s sweet and sour all at the same time. If you taste it alone, it has just a bit of an acid twang, but once mixed with a salad, it seemed perfect to me. I could pick out the sherry vinegar in it – I liked it. You can also add a bit more oil or honey, etc. to suit your own palate. It doesn’t have to be made in a blender – there isn’t anything in this dressing to emulsify it (like mustard or dairy), so it’s just fine made in a glass jar. I don’t believe I’ve ever made a salad dressing with molasses before, and I was little timid about that – wondering how it would taste! It really is delicious.
What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. I’ll be making this dressing again for sure.

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Molasses and Honey Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings, Jordan
Serving Size: 12 (a guess)

2 tablespoons molasses — warmed
2 tablespoons honey — warmed (may need additional to taste)
6 tablespoons sherry vinegar — (may need more to taste)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small shallot — minced
3 tablespoons chopped pecans — toasted (optional)
2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Notes: Ideal for a cold sweet potato salad, spaghetti squash salad, roasted root vegetable salad. Also goes very well with a rustic green salad that contains roasted figs and goat cheese.
1. Place molasses and honey in a large screw-type jar (to hold 2 cups or more), then add vinegar and salt. Close jar tightly and shake vigorously until mixture is smooth.
2. Add shallot, pecans (if using), white pepper and olive oil. Close jar and shake again.
3. Taste and correct for sweetness, acid, salt and/or oil as needed. Use immediately, or store covered, at room temperature for up to 3 days. Shake dressing vigorously just before serving.
Per Serving: 194 Calories; 19g Fat (86.7% calories from fat); trace Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 158mg Sodium.

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