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For the past few years, I have been making a homemade salad dressing that has become a real conversation starter around the dinner table.
When I serve it to guests, they pour a little on the greens I’ve served, let it sit on their tongues for a minute or two, and eventually decide they like it. The creative among them guess at a “secret” ingredient or two. The more analytical ask for the recipe, then groan when they hear the answer they should have predicted.
“Well, I don’t actually have a recipe. I just made it up.”
Playing with my food has become a culinary paradigm in my kitchen over the years. Although I subscribe to several cooking magazines and enjoy finding new recipes, I really consider them more as a place to start than literal instructions. And this approach to food has become even more crucial as I try to eat seasonal and locally grown food.
Although I certainly can’t boast a perfect record — I have eaten my share of flops, I find that the more I experiment with textures and tastes, the more successes I have. And sometimes, I even try writing them down so that others can enjoy them!
Whether you are a “stick-by-the-book” kind of cook or a culinary slam poet mastering dishes on the fly, I challenge you to a little summer food frenzy. Find one or two fresh vegetables or herbs, either from your own garden, the local farmer’s market, or a grocery store you trust, and create a new dish for you and your family.
Then, drop me a comment with your new creation, and I’ll add a link on this blog during one of the summer “Food on Fridays.”
And in case your interested, here are a couple of my favorite creations:
Four by Four Pizza
1 premade crust (I bought a whole wheat one from the Farmer’s Market, but Boboli would work)
Ricotta cheese (leftover from a recent lasagna)
Aged Cheddar Cheese
Spread some ricotta on the crust, then cover with a thin layer of sauce. Added herbs and cheese in layers, sprinkle on a little salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes.
Curry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Flavored vinegar of your choice (I prefer the Citrus Champaigne vinegar from Trader Joe’s in the summer, and a pear or balsamic vinegar from Fresh Market in the winter)
The base of my dressing is usually close to 2 parts oil to 2 parts vinegar to 1 part honey. Adjust the amount of honey and vinegar to your taste, but stay pretty close to these proportions for proper consistency. Combine these in a shaker bottle or other container with a tight lid. Add the herbs and spices to taste (usually about a tsp of garlic powder, 1/2 tsp of curry, and a tsp of basil with the proportions of oil, vinegar and honey above), then shake, shake, shake. Taste and adjust the spices as needed. I store the dressing in the fridge so it will keep longer, but be sure to set it out at least 15 minutes before you are going to eat or it will be firm. (Olive oil doesn’t prefer the fridge.)
Part of the fun of cooking with the seasons is learning to use what’s locally available, and that often means taking recipes as starting points: a theme on which to playfully improvise rather than a blueprint to follow precisely. — from Simply in Season: Recipes that celebrate fresh, local foods in the spirit of More-with-Less
The first recipe I made was a broccoli salad. Out of the nine ingredients listed, I substituted seven!