Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Kicking the Bottle

   Today found me harvesting a bowl overflowing with fresh garden greens: mustard, buttercrunch, baby kale and chard- even a little red sails. As I lay out the elements of a perfect salad it seemed the standard bottle dressing just wouldn't do. After all, I grew this from seed.. tended it through ice storms, and harvested it after a rather wrenching day of work. This baby needed something worthy!
   A dash of sweet with a hint of zing- and herb, an oil and a whisk-like thing. Home made dressings use to baffle me. It took me a few months of trial and error; several skeptical looks from my wary taste testers, and a flat refusal from a husband before the mystery of the home made dressing finally found it's place in my kitchen.
    The mystery lies in a very delicate balance of some basic components: oil, acid, flavor and optional creams. If one overpowers the other, adjustments can be made to amend the error.. but who has time for that.. or the energy for that. After all, some days I have been in the kitchen with hundreds of children- who wants to play around with a contrary dressing experiment.
     A little research, a little review and plenty of tasting, a basic dressing formula began to from; a flex-recipe- -- an avenue for creativity to suite every taste.. and my wacky schedule.

Basic Dressing Flex-recipe Formula

to every 1/4 cup of acid (such as a vinegar or a citrus juice) add:
1 Tablespoon of finely chopped herb or a combination of herbs
decide if a cream component is needed: if so add a spoonful (such as a coarse mustard. yogurt or sour cream, even mayo or heavy cream will do)
now finish it off by whisking in 1/2 cup of oil (such as olive, canola, coconut or whatever you like)

   How easy is that? This can be made ahead and stored in the fridge- decorative decanter or, my personal go-to: a mason jar. On those off the wall days when the bottle is empty, I'll whisk my dressing right in the bottom of that large salad bowl and plop my salad elements right on top; one good toss and you're ready to eat!

But how do we use it? Here are a few combos we love:

instead of one acid, combine 2 tablespoons vinegar with 1/4 cup citrus: very tasty
herb based vinaigrette using: parsley, tarragon, and thyme (add to this a minced clove of garlic and some sour cream for a ranch style flavor) dash some Parmesan cheese in..super! *unless you are my husband and Parm cheese makes you think dirty socks :(
using dijon mustard and 1 small minced onion
balsamic with a minced garlic clove
use the juice and zest of a lemon, lime and orange with olive oil and pepper
lastly: 1/2 cup crushed raspberries with a spoonful of chopped mint
and please note.. hot pepper flakes make everything taste better- even dressing!

   Tasty, simple and open to exploration: our basic dressing formula. Please excuse me while I go polish off the last of those well dressed greens!


Michelle said...

What a great ideal. I have never tried making my own. It's worth a shot.

Simply Scaife Family said...

I hope you do. It's easier than you think.