Post #601 Revisiting an Old Friend

September 29, 2018 at 6:02 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Paula Deen, Julia Child, and Julie Powell all said it:  It’s better with butter.  Countless others have said it, and I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the stuff, myself.  When I was a kid, I didn’t really care for it.  I mostly just put up with it.  Except on toast and popcorn.  My mom liked it a lot.  You may recall me mentioning before that up until her mother passed away when my mom was twelve or so, she lived on a farm in northern New York state.   She used to reminisce with us kids telling us wonderful stories about the farm.

None of those stories ever had anything to do with churning butter.

But I was a smart kid, and I’d read about churning butter, and I’d seen plays, and movies, and television shows wherein the characters would be churning away at some whole milk for what seemed like an onerous two hours or so and come away with wonderful lovely butter.

Even some of the cooking shows I’m fond of watching make reference to making butter.  The Two Fat Ladies from Great Britain in one episode visit a Welshman who shows them how to churn butter with a large mason jar fitted with a gear, a handle, and some wooden paddles.  And the judges in the interminable cooking competitions I’m addicted to make reference to “overchurning”  the cream for a frosting on a cake.

So something that has been on my mind for a long time has been making butter at home.  I’ve read countless articles, chapters in old cooking books, watched videos, read online instructions.  But it’s not something I ever thought to attempt.

At some point in my misspent youth, my mom went on a nostalgia kick and she bought this book:

I read it cover to cover, several times.  To the point where I had memorized huge blocks of print.  I learned how to do so many things from this tome, and I wish I still had it and it’s companion for hobbyists.  One of the things this book went into detail about was churning butter.  And it sounded complicated.  Taking milk from the cow, letting it set two days, etc.  I liked knowing how, but I was relatively certain the actual doing wasn’t going to be nearly so pleasant as reading about it.

I also learned about baking bread in a fireplace, singing songs to keep myself amused, and making a dulcimer, spinning wheel, and moccasins.   This book had it all.  There is even a large section on how to build a log cabin, but I digress.

I played with the idea of making butter for a very long time, but I never really considered it until I watched this woman make it:

You may recognize her as one of the celebrity judge from the first several seasons of The Great British Bake Off, along with Paul Hollywood.  Along with Paul, after a couple of season, they hosted what was called Master Classes where they showed the home baker exactly how to create the items from the shows.  And in one Master Class episode, she bemoaned the fact that she had some leftover cream that was going to spoil.  So she decided to make butter out of it and showed us how.

And I was floored.  She used her stand mixer, the leftover cream, and within a few minutes, she had butter.

So guess what I did today?  And I took pictures.  I made butter out of a pint of heavy cream that was intended to make frosting for a cake that never materialized.  There was till plenty of time on its “use by” date, but I wanted to try this.

I used my stand mixer with the whip attachment, two cups of heavy cream, a pinch of salt which is optional, a wire mesh strainer, and kitchen towel.  The more cream you use, the more butter will result, but it’s not a 1:1 ratio.  Out of two cups of cream, I got about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of butter.  Not too shabby.

I did not select that particular towel because of its yellow color.  That was just a happy accident.  So at the top is two cups of heavy cream slightly cooler than room temperature.  The second picture is the amount of salt I used, approximately 1/4 tsp.  Obviously, the third picture is the towel I used to squeeze off the excess buttermilk.

To make butter, basically all you’re going to do is agitate the cream until the butter solids have separated from the liquid.  Sounds easy, right?  It is easy, and there are dozens of ways this can be accomplished.  The manual churns, the mechanical churns, and the electric mixers are but a few.

So when you’re using the stand mixer, or even if you’re using a hand mixer, start slowly to aerate the cream.  Once the cream starts to look frothy, pump up the speed to the fastest on your machine.  I apologize but some of the pictures aren’t the best quality because the mixer was going to fast.

Starting to get frothy and look like whipped cream.

Starting to look more solid and “overchurned”.

Starting to show the solids pulling away from the liquids.

This whole process takes time and that depends on how fast your mixer goes.  Our current stand mixer is the standard kitchen style and top speed is okay.  Our old stand mixer which we are going to replace soon, was professional quality, and would go much faster.  At this point, things haven’t gotten too messy.  But it will.  As the cream solidifies, it will creep up the sides of the bowl.  You can use a rubber spatula to push it back down to get churned.  Stop the mixer or not, it’s up to you.  The butter will not be changed because of this.

The butter solids are starting to form.  You can see the granules and the change in color from white cream to yellow butter.  It feels like magic since all you did was agitate the cream.

The butter granules are starting to attach to each other forming larger blobs of butter, and even though you can’t see it, I could see the buttermilk starting to collect in the bottom of the bowl.  Here’s where it started getting messy because the speed of the whisk and the larger globules cause a lot of splashing.

The butter and buttermilk can be seen quite plainly here.  I pushed the stuff collected on the sides down into the center.

And the whole thing fell apart.  The butter particles reverted to a smaller form and it looked as though the liquid was incorporating them.  However, continued agitation resulted in success, and a messy kitchen counter.

The butter is done forming.  Continued agitation will not increase the butter yield so it’s time to stop.  I poured the buttermilk into a fine mesh strainer.  You can save the buttermilk for cooking or drinking, but that’s up to you.  If you decided to save it, put it in the fridge immediately and use before three days.  If you can’t, freeze it.  You can do one of two things at this stage.  You can layer some cheesecloth in the strainer before you pour the buttermilk and butter solids in to make sure you catch all the solids.  Or, as I did, you can pour the milk and solids into the strainer, use a rubber spatula to remove as much of the solids into the strainer as you can, then transfer the solids to a clean kitchen towel.  Then close up the towel and twist it as tightly as you can for several minutes.  This will squeeze a ton of buttermilk out.  You can also wash the butter in ICE COLD water to avoid melting it until the water runs clear.

So this is what I ended up with.  Just remove the ball of butter and any substantial stragglers into a container of some sort.  I chose a silicon egg poacher for no other reason than it was nearby.

The butter is done and ready to use right away.  And it tasted wonderful.  I haven’t used it on anything yet, but Partner/Spouse made toast and said it tasted fine.

Store the butter in the fridge in an airtight container.  I just put this whole cup into a zip lock bag.  This is to avoid the butter picking up any flavors from the fridge.

So, my uptake on this is:  It was fun to make, and fascinating to watch the process and the butter come together.  It was meticulous and messy, and it might be more trouble than it’s worth.  I don’t believe it will take the place of purchasing butter in the way my bread making has taken over buying bread, but it’s a useful alternative and fun to know how to do.

Let me know your thoughts and any questions you might have.

As always,

 

 

 

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Post #600 Settlin’ In

September 22, 2018 at 9:34 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

So, we’ve been here a whole week, and unpacking is 90% done.  There is a big storage issue here:  there isn’t any.  So we’ve come up with some ideas that we’re going to start working on to get things taken care of.  But overall, things are good.  I’ve been cooking and baking a lot.  I made my first batch of choc chip cookies today!  They tasted good, too!

This morning, as we were discussing what we wanted to accomplish, we had the television on a local station for the news and events.  One segment was about local harvest and there was one grizzled farmer talking about his apple harvest and how the public was welcome to come pick off his trees (for a price, of course).  In an instant, I was transported back to age 7.

For a few years, we lived in upper state New York, in a small town called Glens Falls.  It’s not so small anymore and we actually don’t live very far from there now (a trip to Nostalgia-land is in the offing).  Dad was a Marine and at one point he was a recruiter which is why we landed there.  This is where my memories really start.  It’s where I learned about hiking and camping and other outdoor sports.  I turned into an amateur naturalist and kept that up my whole life.  And I learned about the harvest.  It was New England in the 60s.  Harvest fairs were everywhere.  My mom’s favorite was apples.

Mom grew up on a farm in New York near the border of Canada.  She would regale us with stories about the farm and the foods.  Being 100% Irish, her stories were so implausible it was difficult to tell if they were true or not.  She was constantly reaching out to her roots to recapture a happy time, and would take us right along with her.  Every fall that we lived in New England, we would all pack into the car and drive for what felt like forever to a hyperactive kid and pick apples.  Right off the tree.

I remember the drive being interminable but beautiful.  Up and down hills, trees so thick they were right on the road, and colors ranging from dull green to bright shining red.  In my memories, it was something out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  Apples ripen in the fall, so it was always a little chilly.  But once we got out of the car and into the orchards, we warmed up pretty quickly.

How excited could a little kid get, not only being allowed but encouraged to climb trees!  Back home, I was always being yelled at for climbing trees.  I’d invariably come home with cuts, bruises, dried blood, torn clothes, and sap in my hair.  But this one time a year, I could climb any tree I chose and do whatever it took to get to those apples.  I don’t remember ever falling but I’m sure I must have at some point.  Likely more than once.

That first bite of an apple picked fresh off the tree.  To this day, I can still taste it.  So crisp the sound of the snap was like a fire cracker.  So juicy it ran down your chin.  So sweet it was candy and so tangy it made your saliva run like water.  That distinctive flavor that screamed APPLE!!  That first bite was always superb, always to be savored.  Then toss the apple to the ground.  Then climb down and brush off the apple and finish eating it cuz your dad said so.  Those last few bites were a chore, still just as delicious.

Anyone know what a bushel basket is?

It’s a wooden slat basket designed to self-destruct in a short amount of time.  It holds 42 pounds of apples.  We always picked two bushels.  Okay, so where would you store 84 pounds of apples in New England in the Fall?  The back porch, of course.  I’m not kidding, those apples would last all the way through winter, as long as you kept them dry.

At the start of the apples, they were always good.  You could walk onto or through the back porch and smell those apples and grab one to munch on any time you chose.  Except 5 minutes before dinner.  There were apples in our lunch boxes for weeks.  To the point where I was giving mine away.  And there was home made apple sauce.  There was home made apple pie.  There was home made apple butter.  There was apple cake, and anything else that had apples in it.  And things that weren’t supposed to have apples in it suddenly had apples in it.  Like salad.  Or popcorn.  Well, probably not popcorn, but you get the idea.

I had a friend who lived across the street at one time.  We were as inseparable as two kids who went to different schools could be.  Every Saturday morning we’d get together to play for hours on end.  His family always had Friday night popcorn while they watched television or played board games.  He and I would always have Saturday morning popcorn which is probably where I learned to love day old popcorn.  And we always had apples with it.  Didn’t matter to us that the two were seldom paired.  The saltiness of the popcorn and the sweet tanginess of the apples seemed perfect.  And it fueled our endeavors through the day.  And there were always more apples.

I don’t recall that we ever threw out any old rotted apples, but I’m certain that happened.  A family of five just can’t get through 84 pounds of apples before they spoil.  But mom was valiant in her efforts to use those apples.  We didn’t have room to put up preserves so everything needed to be used as fresh as possible.  One of her favorite ways to get rid of the apples was applesauce.  She’d cook that stuff like there was no tomorrow.  But we were kids and we liked applesauce so we ate it all.

Years later, when I couldn’t stand to look an apple in the eyes anymore, my ex-wife commented how much she liked applesauce.  I went through my cookbooks and found a no cook recipe.  It turned out really well, so here it is.  It makes as much or as little as you like and is very easy.

  • 1 large apple or 2 medium apples per serving of any variety you like to eat
  • 1/4 lemon juice per serving
  • 2 tsp clear Karo syrup per serving

Core the apple(s) leaving the skin on.  Chop the apple into one inch chunks.  Toss the apples with lemon juice and syrup.  Place the apples in a high speed blender, working in batches if needed.  Puree apples until it reaches the consistency you prefer (smooth or chunky.)  Pour into an airtight container and chill before serving.  The lemon will keep the apple sauce from turning brown, but this will not keep for very long unchilled so use as quickly as possible.

We would make several servings and either freeze them or store them in the fridge.  My ex would take frozen ones to work for lunch and they stayed perfectly edible.  We never tried to keep these fresh beyond five days though.  We didn’t trust the apples not to spoil.

As always,

Post #589 Home Again!

September 18, 2018 at 8:13 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Well, the move was made rather painlessly, sort of.  We are home, unloaded, one quarter of the way unpacked, and starting to sort through everything that needs to be done.  The amount of work to do is staggering.

We packed up and drove up on Friday, but we’ve been packing stuff up for a couple of weeks.  The truck loading was done by two guys hired by the truck rental.  They were professional and efficient.  We were done by 11:30.  Then we cleaned the place up and did the walk through.  Then the two and a half hour drive north and arrived and signed the lease and into the hotel by 5.  We walked the dog, fed him, then took showers, and went to find dinner somewhere.  We ended up at a steak house at 6pm on a Friday night.  Took us a long time to get seated and by that time we were both very hungry.  We hadn’t eaten anything all day, so the last sustenance was from dinner the day before.  A full twenty four hours since we ate last.  Not good for guys dealing with diabetes.

We both ordered salad, fries, and a large medium-rare steak.  I had two glasses of wine, too.  And a glass of water.  It was only 8pm went we returned to the hotel, but we only lasted another 45 minutes before collapsing into unconsciousness.  The hotel had a continental breakfast, but we decided to ignore that and get started on unpacking.  We hadn’t even started on digesting all that beef yet so we were okay.  We stopped at a store and picked up supplies, and among those supplies were bacon, eggs, and frozen hash brown patties.  So we had those at some point during the morning.

The two guys who came to unload us arrived at 1pm and it really only took an hour and a half to unload.  However, since we’d used boxes a friend gave us from his move, we were never sure if the notes on the boxes were us or them.  So we’re opening boxes marked bedroom that are full of spices.  That night we heated up frozen dinners that were serviceable.  But Sunday morning, we went to a great diner called The Red Arrow.

This place has been around for decades and has the standard bill of fare for a diner, but it also has some local favorites like the Firecracker Omelet that has buffalo chicken, jalapenos, and is covered with Siracha sauce.  It has a build your own eggs benedict selection that has about a thousand different combos.  We both had a selection of two eggs, bacon or sausage, home fries, and toast.  The best part was the staff.  They engaged their customers like no others I’ve ever seen.  At the table across the aisle from us, a young family of four sat down and the waiter stooped to talk with the five year old boy.  We know his age because he was quite verbal about everyone’s age.  At one point, his mom squawked, “I am NOT 39!” which sent everyone in the diner to laughing.

We went to the store again in the afternoon, and got stuff to make our first home made meal in the new place.

As you can see, it was tacos.  We love tacos at our house.  We probably have them once or twice a week, and it’s never more than 10 days between one taco and another.  Of course, we were starving by dinner time, so I made four for me, those on the plate, and four for Partner/Spouse.  He prefers his crispy so I fried them up folded and crispy.  I prefer mine soft but well done, so I cook them flat for about 10 seconds on one side, and about seven seconds on the other side.  All of them get drained and allowed to stand for a minute or so before filling.  I fill mine the same way every time.  It goes back to childhood and is comfort food completely.  I start with the flat corn tortilla and put a thick line of cheddar cheese on it.  I top that with hot beef, whether hamburger or shredded roast.  Then a couple of spoonfuls of chopped tomatoes and a spoonful of salsa.  That’s topped with shredded lettuce.  Then you pick them up by folding up to encase the fillings, open your mouth as wide as you can, and don’t stop chewing until the taco is gone.  You don’t want to set it down cuz it’ll fall apart.

Man!  I love tacos!

The next day, we had taco salad for lunch.  So good.

Since then, the days have been “routine” with unpacking, figuring out what things are, where things are, and where they’re going.  The apartment is very low on storage space so we’re working on creative ideas for that.  I’ll post pictures as things move along.

Tonight was chicken bites fried in onion and garlic with lemon and lime juice added at the end.  All this was tossed with spaghetti with two tablespoons of butter added at the end, and topped with parmesan cheese.  Fresh sliced tomatoes on the side finished it all.  It was so good.

Well, I’ll close for now cuz weariness is creeping up.  I’ll post this weekend with a fun post of some kind.  Take care, be safe, and as always,

Post #588 Guess What’s Happening Again?

September 8, 2018 at 2:33 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I’ve been writing this blog for six and a half years.  It doesn’t seem that long because I’ve had such a good time writing it.  I remember most of what I’ve written over the years, although it sometimes slips my mind how many times I’ve told the same story.  I mean, if you guys hear once more about the first cake I ever made, I’ll deserve whatever invective you throw my way.  But it is a funny story.  During those six and a half years, we’ve moved, I think four times.  Guess what’s happening again?  Yup, you’re so smart.  We’re moving again.  Partner/Spouse’s job it taking us about two hours north into New Hampshire.  It’s a big promotion for him.  He’s finally getting into the “Chief of” level, of whatever part of the hospital he’s going to  be dealing with.  Probably the Emergency Dept.  We moved next Friday, and until all our services are connected, blogging will be spotty, or maybe non-existent.  The move itself is going to be pretty easy.  We’re transferring our apartment from here to there within the same leasing company so it’s all set up.  It’s a nicer building and our bedroom has a river view.  The building also has a rooftop terrace.  It’s exciting to discover new places and new restaurant.  If the internet is correct, there’s a churrascaria (Brazilian barbecue) right around the corner.   We’re looking forward to it.

So apart from that news, I also found a pound cake recipe this week that made a very good pound cake and used a different technique for blending the batter.  I will make one comment to start:  Be certain all ingredients are at room temperature.

Butter Vanilla Pound Cake

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons milk or water
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup flour (they recommend cake flour but I used AP with no trouble)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 13 tablespoons butter, cut into 1 tablespoon chunks
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare a 9x5x3 loaf pan by spraying it with a vegetable spray then laying a piece of parchment paper on the bottom cut to size and spraying the parchment paper.

In a 2 cup glass measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, milk/water, and vanilla until completely blended.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, or the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and nutmeg if using.  Make certain the dry ingredients are well sifted and combined.

Place all pieces of butter into the flour and blend at low speed until butter is thoroughly incorporated.  Add half the egg mixture and blend, stopping to scraped the sides of the bowl into the mixture.  Add the rest of the egg mixture in two additions with the machine at medium speed.  Make sure to mix completely with each addition, a minimum of 30 seconds but more if needed.

Using a rubber spatula scrape the entire batter mix into the prepare loaf pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 45 – 55 minutes, or until the cake is golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

I baked for 50 minutes and it didn’t seem quite done to me, so I added another six minutes and while the cake was fine, tasted good, etc., it had a thicker crust than I normally like and the crust was a little tougher than usual.  I also added the nutmeg and the flavor was amazing.

This cake didn’t last too long, but we had thick slices just plain; once with chocolate fudge sauce; once with ice cream; and once with raspberry preserves.  It had that signature crack down the middle exactly as a pound cake should.  This is one we’re going to have a lot of.  I’m going to play around with the flavorings and spices and I’ll probably end up adding fruit and nuts.  Right now, I’m thinking some coconut would be a good thing.

So, I thought I’d take a moment and let you know what’s upcoming in the blog over the next few months, once the internet is on in the apartment.   The new homesite is still in New England, thick in the middle of New England.  While there is loads of city life and entertainment available, particularly near the shore, there is also loads of the fairs and festivals.  So as many of those as we can get to, I’ll be writing about.  Our little town has a ton of small, independent diners which you all know we love, so you’ll be reading about those, as well as the regular style restaurants.  And there seems to be a lot of food truck activity so you’ll hear about those.  I’m still working with my bread fixation and trying new recipes (I made cloverleaf rolls last weekend) so I’ll be writing about my efforts there, including the mishaps and happy accidents.  I’m still working on getting my sugar levels under control so I’ll have something to say about those along the way.  And I’m still trying to find the best way to make a good old fashioned donut.  I now own two different donut cutters, as well as two donut pans for those recipes that call for baking rather than frying.  And as always, if ever you want me to explore something specific, let me know by sending an email, putting in a comment, or letting me know by FB.  If anyone ever thinks they want to write a guest post, just let me know.  I’m happy to hand over the reins for anyone who wants to write.  My writing in my other life is going well and I’m going to attempt NaNoWriMo again this year.  I tried once back in 2015, but didn’t make the word goal.  (For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.  It’s in November of every year and the word count goal is 50000 words in 30 days.  The first time I attempted, I got to 32000 but life interfered.  This year, I’m going to make it.  There’s no prize, no entry fee, no penalty for not making the word count.  But if you do make the word count, you get the tremendous satisfaction of knowing you can do it.  And you may have a completed first draft of a sellable book.  That’s my goal.)

So that’s where things are and where things will be.  As always, if you try any of the recipes or techniques please let us all know about it.  And if you have anything to add, don’t hesitate.  We’d all love to hear from you!

 

Post #587 Dressing for Dinner

September 1, 2018 at 2:09 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’ve been reading comics books ever since I could read.  I’ve read all types, but my favorites have always been the superheroes.  Batman and Robin aren’t my favorite, but they’re close to the top.  So when I found this panel while visiting a superhero blog, I knew I had my next blog post.

I’ve written about salads a lot in this blog.  I like salad.  A big salad with a small piece of grilled animal flesh is the perfect meal for me.  And though I’ve included recipes for salad dressings, I’ve never really thought about them or considered them outside of just an adjunct for salad.

Dressings have a long history, as long as there’s been food.  Dressings are simply something on the side to enhance food, to dress it up, if you will.  Sometimes it’s a dipping sauce, sometimes it’s side dish of starchy bits cooked into a casserole, but most often it’s a sauce to drizzle over food.  Dressings come in either sweet or tangy, thick or thin.  Within those parameters, there are hundreds of variations.

I myself prefer the thinner dressings.  In that category, the most popular is the vinaigrette, although it doesn’t always have to use vinegar.  The basic vinaigrette is one part sour, two parts oil, and one part water if desired.  The oil and sour are emulsified and flavorings are added if desired.  The lighter the oil, the lighter the dressing.   The thicker dressings use milk or mayonnaise instead of the oil.  Milk or milk products like cream or yogurt etc. are used as a base for the added flavorings.  Right now, the most widely popular cream dressing in the U.S. is Ranch.  I loathe that stuff.  I don’t even like to have it in the house.

At this point, it’s good to consider how to dress a salad.  Typically, the current standard is to allow each individual to plate their own salad and dress it in whatever manner they choose.  However, some salads come with dressing already added, such as Cesar Salad.  However, there are other salads I make that I put the dressing on before serving because the flavor of the salad depends on the dressing blending over time with the salad.  In those cases, it’s never good to put too much dressing on the salad.  Overdressing a salad is as bad as using spoiled vegetables in a salad.  The way to tell if a salad is overdressed is to toss the dressing in the salad, then pick up a clump with a fork.  If the dressing drips off the fork in a good stream, it’s over dressed.  If you put that salad on a plate with other foods, the dressing will puddle on the plate and it will mix with other flavors, possibly not in a good way.

When choosing a dressing for a salad, it’s important to select flavors that will complement the other foods being served, but particularly the foods in the salad itself.  For instance, if you’re making a taco salad, you’ll want flavors that combine with a Mexican palate.  If the greens in the salad tend to the bitter side, the dressing should counterbalance that by being a little sweet.  If the salad has some very ripe tomatoes in it, a slightly more acid dressing could be used.

I was working at McDonalds as a teenager when I started considering dressings as a whole.  Up to then, the only dressings we had at home were Ranch (ugh!), Catalina, French, and Italian.  They were about all that was available in the grocery stores in the days before the supergiant stores we have now.  But after working at McDs for a while, I got to the point where burgers weren’t cutting it for me, so I’d pile some shredded lettuce in a burger box, add some pickles and tomatoes, and eat a “salad” during my break.  Again, this was in a time where fast food places only had salad fixings to put on burgers, not as a side dish.  One day, I was wondering how to get a dressing out of what was on hand, and I mixed ketchup and dill pickle juice.  It wasn’t too bad.  I found that by adjusting the amount of either component, I could make a sweet thick dressing or a sour think dressing.  Of course, I haven’t tried since then, but I’ve heard other people talk about doing the same thing so it must be okay.  We all lived.

Once, when my ex-wife and I were still in the dating phase, we went out to dinner with her sister.  I only wanted a salad so I ordered a large garden salad and when it came time to select the dressing, I asked if they had any lemon wedges so I could squeeze lemon juice onto the salad.  Lemon juice with a light sprinkle of salt and pepper is a wonderful dressing.  My sister-in-law looked at me like I was crazy.  I told her that it was good, but she wouldn’t hear of it.  When it came time for her to order, she asked if she could have my dressing as well as hers.  She ordered two different dressings and now it was my turn to look are her like she was crazy.  She said she liked to mix them when she could.  My ex watched the two of us and busted up laughing.  My salad was good.

My favorite dressing as a kid was French dressing, that pale orange creamy mess that had a sweet and tangy flavor.  Barring that, I would use Catalina dressing which was red, and basically a tangier version of French.  The whole family loved Italian and we had to buy it in the jumbo bottles.  When I learned that you could make these dressings at home, I undertook to make French dressing, and it turned out to be a vinaigrette that I fell in love with.  So here’s the recipe for that and have fun dressing for dinner.

Classic French Dressing

1 medium shallot, minced finely

2 tablespoons of wine vinegar of any type, red white or rice

1/4 tsp sea salt, or to taste

1-2 tsp Dijon mustard

6 tablespoons light vegetable oil, recommend EVOO or Canola

Fresh grated black pepper to taste

In a medium glass bowl, whisk together the shallot, vinegar, and salt until well blended, about two minutes.  Let stand fifteen minutes for flavors to blend.  Whisk in the mustard, then add the oil in VERY small amounts, whisking all the while until oil is completely added and completely emulsified.  It will not thicken like a mayonnaise, but should stay combined.

Method 2:  in a glass jar with tight fitting lid large enough to hold all ingredients with some space left, add shallot, vinegar, and salt.  Close lid tightly and shake vigorously for a minute or so, then allow to stand for fifteen minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and shake vigorously for several minutes until emulsified.

Drizzle onto salad and toss gently until salad is well coated.  You won’t believe how good this fresh dressing tastes.

Optionally, you can add 1-2 tablespoons of ketchup to add sweetness and color.  You can also add fresh garlic if you like, but add only a very little so it doesn’t overpower other flavors.  That also is true for other herbs and spices you might like.

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