Friday, June 22, 2007

Everyone's Favorite Salad Dressing

I am salad dressing-impaired. I don't know why. I have no trouble with things that notoriously give people fits. World-class hollandaise? Pie crust? No problem. But for some reason I can't make a simple vinaigrette that doesn't taste like I just shouldn't have bothered.

In this I am the shame of my family. My father makes outstanding salad dressing. And his father is the acknowledged salad master of our entire extended family. But my grandfather has a secret... an old and treasured copy of "Salads for the Gourmet" circa the Eisenhower administration. What's more, my grandfather is a recipe-follower. We're talking about a man who once scaled a marinade recipe by 7/8 because the leg of lamb he was going to marinate in it was 7/8 the weight called for in the recipe, bless his obsessive-compulsive heart.

So, though I wasn't going to hunt down a copy of my grandfather's salad bible, I figured I could still find some salad dressing recipes (I know, I know... a strange concept) and actually follow them. And now I can eat salad.

This recipe seems to be everyone's particular favorite, since it has been demanded after the first bite each time I've served it. I found it on, from Gourmet, May 2003.

It's creamy and well-balanced. It's actually a good substitute for mayo in things like potato salad and sandwiches (though it does have a looser consistency).

1/4 cup whole milk yogurt (I think lowfat Greek yogurt or regular lowfat yogurt strained to remove excess liquid would also work)
1+ tbsp olive oil
1+ tbsp lemon juice
1+ tbsp minced shallot
1 tbsp finely chopped chives
1 tbsp chopped tarragon (optional)
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp Pommery mustard (This actually might be the secret... if you don't have it, you can substitute regular whole grain mustard, but really, even though you'll pay $20 for a crock of it, you won't regret having some of this in your fridge. You'll find it becomes your secret ingredient in just about everything. Don't forget to lick the spoon.)

I put everything in a jar with a tightly-fitting lid and shake.

The salad recipe it came with includes a lot of herbs, including a goodly amount of fresh flat-leaf parsley and some sorrel. I like parsley in salads, so you may want to try that, though I found that the sorrel got a little overwhelmed (which is sort of strange considering it has such a nice lemony-tart flavor by itself).

In my search for good salad dressing recipes, I also came across these in last month's issue of Food and Wine. The Dijon vinaigrette is especially good, though I haven't tried the other two yet.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Corn & Tomato Chowder

This was a fridge clearout soup, but it just happened that I had the makings for something fairly coherent in there. It's hard to go wrong with cream _and_ creme fraiche. So I was thinking about something kinda creamy, with some fresh tomatoes (I really had that slightly pink tomato creaminess thing on my brain) and corn, and I found this recipe (Corn and Tomato Bisque from Food and Wine) and then just changed it so that it more closely conformed to what I was craving. I finally got around to making some chicken leftovers into broth today (one of the many advantages of working at home) added some veggies from the farmer's market (though obviously the corn isn't quite in season here yet). It totally hit the spot.

2 tbsp butter
2 shallots, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 cups raw corn (about 3 ears)
3 cups chicken stock
2 Yukon Gold Potatoes, cut in small dice
4 small (3-4 in) summer squash, cut in 1/4 in coins
3 tbsp creme fraiche
2 fresh tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
about 1/2 tbsp finely chopped chives or to taste

Saute the shallots in the butter until translucent but not brown. Add the minced garlic and saute barely 1 minute longer. Add the sherry vinegar and the corn, and saute for 2-3 minutes more.

Add the stock and the potatoes simmer until the potatoes are almost tender. Taste for salt and salt and pepper to taste. If you have an immersion blender, stir it around a little, but make sure a majority of the corn and potatoes remain unblended. The original recipe recommends taking some out of the pot and blending it, but I think this is unnecessarily labor intensive (though if you feel like it, it will make things a little creamier).

Add the squash, creme fraiche and tomatoes, and simmer about 3-4 minutes longer.

Finish with the heavy cream and the chives and serve.

Saturday, June 2, 2007


Yet another backlog... And this doesn't even begin to cover my recent adventures in sourdough baking. But it's a start.

(June Supper Club: fruit and chocolate)

This was pretty close to what I had in my mind's palate, so I'm pretty happy with it. I combined approaches in a couple of different recipes I found online, one the Ancho and Chipotle Mole from Food and Wine, the other a "Oaxacan Black Mole" from This wasn't overwhelmingly spicy, since I took out all of the chile seeds. If you like it hotter, you could reserve some of the seeds and toast/grind them in the manner of the dried spices, and adjust the heat to taste that way.

3 large dried Ancho chiles
1 large and 3-4 small dried Chipotle chiles

2 large fresh Pasilla (or Poblano) peppers... the large, shiny, dark green ones
2 red bell peppers

1 cinnamon stick (if you can get Mexican cinnamon, that's ideal... I just used what I had)
4-5 whole cloves
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 whole peppercorns

2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion
1 small can tomato paste
8-10 smallish tomatillos
1 small ripe banana or plantain
10 garlic cloves
2 discs Ibarra Mexican chocolate
1 heaping tbsp cocoa

salt to taste

1. Preheat a gas broiler and broiler pan (or a gas grill).

2. Soak the dried chiles in about 2 cups of boiling water for about 30 mins. You may need to weight them down a bit so they don't just float to the top. (Save the soaking water in case you need to adjust the consistency of the mole.)

3. Remove the seeds and cores from the fresh peppers and cut into pieces that lay flat. Put them on the preheated broiler pan (or grill) skin side toward the flame. Broil or grill for 10 minutes, until the skin is charred. Remove the skin (this should be easy) and put them in a covered bowl to steam for a few minutes.

4. Toast the spices (cinnamon, cloves, cumin, sesame seeds and peppercorns) in a dry skillet until fragrant and golden brown. Be careful not to burn them... watch carefully and shake the pan. Grind in batches in a mortar or spice grinder.

5. Remove the tomatillo husks and puree the tomatillos, garlic and banana in a food processor. (You could also mince the garlic and add it to the onion once the onion starts to get translucent. Either way.)

6. Saute the onion and ground spices in the oil on medium-high heat until the onion is just beginning to brown. Add the tomato paste and saute another 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatillo puree and cook until slightly reduced, about 5-10 minutes, stirring periodically. Remove from heat and add Ibarra chocolate discs and stir until melted.

7. Remove the stems and seeds from the soaking dried peppers, puree with the fresh peppers, and add to the pot.

8. Blend the mole in a blender (or with a hand blender) until smooth. (The food processor doesn't quite get it smooth enough.)

9. Add salt to taste (about a tsp). If it's not chocolatey enough, you can add some of the cocoa.

Slather on the sauce vector of your choice. This stuff should keep in the fridge for a few weeks at least.