Every cook has their bête noire - the item, against all logic and rational decisions, you just can’t convince yourself to make. I do the lion’s share of cooking in my house, but when Bryan and I first started dating, I started the campaign to make his official cooking duty “salad dresser”.
He is a voracious salad eater. Me, not so much. His toppings of choice: raw everything — carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes. Mine: Anything that covers up the taste of lettuce, and the more the better — cheese (please!), fruit (dried, fresh or cooked), nuts, roasted veggies, meat, herbs, grains, basically anything you can pick up with a fork other than raw vegetables.
I know I should eat more fresh, raw veggies, so I thought it was a good thing when he started stocking salad greens in my fridge. Imagine my horror when it was revealed that his favorite kind of salad dressing, the only one that he would even consider at the store, was one that turned my stomach. The culprit? Newman’s Own Light Italian.
Sounds innocuous enough, I know, but it is also my parents’ salad dressing of choice, and I associate its taste with one too many greens-only, slightly wilty salads. That was the moment when I started selling the virtues of DIY salad dressing.
"It’s so easy! It only takes a minute!" "You can make it however you want — add anything you like." "It’s so much cheaper, and fresher tasting, too!" They all sound a little hollow when the speaker has never once been witnessed making her own salad dressing.
The passage of time changes all things, though. Whether it was the wrinkling of my nose every time the Newman’s Own came out, or the effusive praise I heaped on any early attempt at creating a dressing, Bryan has fully embraced his role as salad dresser. In fact, he’s asked me several times when I am going to blog about his salads. So, in celebration of my lovely husband, who exuberantly takes over the odious kitchen tasks of my life, I present his dressing recipe.
Bryan’s Own Salad Dressing
- olive oil
- one lemon
- 3/4 tsp mustard powder
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/8 tsp chili powder
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 clove garlic or some shallot
Note: This is truly a “to taste” recipe — measures above are approximate, and ratios are based on nothing but how Bryan likes his salad to taste.
The rule of thumb for oil to lemon juice is typically 3 to 1, but in nearly every case, you have lots and lots of olive oil, and a finite amount of lemon juice, so start at 2 to 1, and add oil to taste.
I find it easiest to squeeze the lemon directly into a measuring cup, so you know how much you’re working with. For us, a lemon will dress approximately 8 salads.
Start seasoning! Bryan likes plenty of salt, pepper and mustard, a moderate amount of cumin, and a little chili powder and cayenne pepper to spice it up. Feel free to adjust those measures to your own taste. Go crazy; add a second garlic clove if you love it.
We pour ours in a jam jar, for easy shaking. If you’re making it all in the measuring cup, use a fork to mix it all up, and give it a taste. Adjust as necessary. If you are like Bryan, make it first, before you start prepping your toppings. Then stick it in the fridge, to get the desired salad dressing chill.
The dressing will keep for at least a week, so make more if you want it. Note that all the flavors will get stronger over time.
(My other campaign, still underway, is to make him the bread maker — specifically, the baguette guy. I am keeping my fingers crossed!)
May 13, 2010
It is time. Today. Go get yourself at least one pint of local strawberries. Don’t go to Superfresh. Go to a farmer’s market. Go to Reading Terminal Market and hit up the Amish or Fair Food. Yes, they cost more. If there is one form of produce worth the outlay to get fresh and local, it is berries. They do not ripen after picking, but they are fragile (read: do not ship well cross-country) when ripe. You will taste the difference.
Now, I will share with you the most important lesson I learned from my french exchange host family. There is no such thing as a strawberry too sweet and ripe to sugar. I learned to embrace the indulgence. Just add a teaspoon or so, to really bring out the flavor. Slice them up, sugar them, and eat in 5 minutes. You will eat the whole bowl.
Repeat. After you have done this 3 or 4 times, you may be ready to move on to the strawberry shortcake recipe below. You may not. That’s ok. It is perfectly fine to worship strawberries in their primal form first and foremost. But this recipe is pretty good, too.
- a half batch of biscuits (add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the dry ingredients when making)
- 1 pint strawberries
- 1/2 pint heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon of sugar (plus more for the berries)
Make your biscuits (you can use this recipe, but any basic biscuit recipe will make a tasty shortcake.) When you’ve put the biscuits in the oven, slice your strawberries, removing the stems. Sprinkle the berries with a teaspoon of sugar, or more to taste. Set aside.
When the biscuits come out, set them aside to cool for a bit (or they will melt the whipped cream.) When they are warm, but not hot, make whipped cream.
If you aren’t already the sort to make whipped cream fresh, I strongly encourage you to try it. It’s faster than this description makes it sound, and it is worlds better than store bought. If I were going to cheat making strawberry shortcakes, I would definitely use Pillsbury poppin’ can biscuits before I used canned whipped cream.
I have been informed that some people have the capability to whip cream by hand, but you will want to use a mixer. I have also been told there are many schools of thought about how one should progress through the speeds when mixing, but I have never noticed a difference in my cream, so I’ll just tell you the fast way. Start with your heavy cream in a large clean bowl. Take the mixer through the speeds until you are at the second-fastest speed. Whip the cream until it starts to hold slight shapes. Then, mix in your tablespoon of sugar (and a splash of vanilla extract, if you want.)
Continue mixing until the cream holds in peaks. At this point, if you like a soft, slightly runny whipped cream, it’s done. If you want dollops that sit firmly where you put them, turn the mixer down a notch, and keep going until it gets to the consistency you like. Aren’t sure? Stop the mixer, and taste a swipe!
Usually, for cakes and sundaes and other very sweet things, I barely sugar my whipped cream (maybe a teaspoon of sugar.) For strawberry shortcakes, though, the biscuit is savory(ish. buttery, at least.) The strawberries are tart. So, the cream should definitely be sweet on the tongue. Again, if you aren’t sure, taste it! You’re just whipping air into the cream, so the sweetness won’t really change much in the whipping process.
Put it all together, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in yum.