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Friday, May 27, 2011

Random Food Fridays - Thousand Island Dressing

Sometimes Madelyn gets after me for buying bottled salad dressings. Really, it's because I've found a few that I really like and I haven't been able to duplicate them successfully yet. There is one salad dressing that I've always made from scratch - thousand island. This is one of those recipes that my mom always made, and once you make it yourself, the bottled stuff just doesn't taste right. Too much vinegar, I think. This is also one of those master recipes that you can adjust to your own tastes. Don't like mayo - use all sour cream. Don't like pickle relish - chop up some capers. Ketchup too bland - throw in some hot sauce. The version you see in this photo represents this recipe plus a few shots of Tapatio hot sauce for my portion.

By the way, those little carrots are organic Nantes carrots from my farm box. We ate the whole darn bunch! Delish!

Thousand Island Dressing
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup ketchup (homemade if you have it)
2 tbsp. pickle relish (I used my own sweet zucchini relish with roasted jalapeƱos)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
freshly ground black pepper to taste
hot sauce to taste (optional)

Combine all ingredients and chill.
35 calories per tbsp.
(I made mine with olive oil mayo that is 50 calories per tbsp.)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ginger Joy

I visited my mom about a week before Mother's Day and she commented that she had heard ginger was good for inflammation. I was happy to know that she could choose to eat something she would enjoy and would be good for her. Then, in the afternoon she broke out the commercial diet ginger ale. I knew this wouldn't do much for her. I began to formulate a plan for some gingery Mother's Day gifts.

I knew homemade ginger ale could be made, as I had enjoyed it at a pot luck a few years ago. I used the magic of the interwebs to find these two ginger projects. One is ginger syrup from Brooklyn Farmhouse. This appealed to me because the syrup is concentrated and easy for my mom to use. All she has to do is stir it into club soda. The other great feature of this recipe is the candied ginger that is the best by-product ever! I chopped my ginger very fine - 1/4 of an inch or less. Mine became soft and thick after about 75 minutes. Initially, I bottled the syrup in the pretty green bottle shown above, but I removed it to a canning jar the next day. My little bit of leftover syrup had crystallized in the fridge and I was afraid it would cease to be pourable after a while.
You know you want some!

My first batch dried very well and is crunchy with sugar. On a subsequent batch (I'm addicted!), I cooked it for a slightly shorter time and tossed it in less sugar and let it dry several hours instead of overnight. It has the same heady ginger flavor, but came out chewier. The syrup is as thick as pancake syrup and remained liquid. My first batch was more like honey and I think that's why it crystallized in the fridge.

I also found this great set of instructions for making living ginger ale. I had some beer brewing bottles on hand, so I did not use plastic two-liter bottles as they suggest. I've really been trying to get away from plastic. With these specially designed bottles and modest fermenting times, there was no risk of explosion. I used a micro-planer to grate the ginger. I used a heaping tablespoon of grated ginger and the the juice of one Meyer Lemon for the batch. Because I was timid about the explosive properties of fermentation, I probably put these into the refrigerator a little too soon. I only let them ferment 24 hours and, because it was cool, I probably could have let them go for another day. We took two bottles to share for Mother's Day and my mom enjoyed it very much. It was more like ginger lemonade at that point, but there's nothing wrong with that. I enjoyed one of the bottles from the fridge about a week later and it had become nicely fizzy.

I'm excited about working with ginger. The syrup is divine. So far, my favorite use is drizzled over fresh strawberries. There is no way I can convey in words how magical ginger and strawberries are together. Think of what happens when port meets dark chocolate. It's that good. Really.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Random Food Fridays - Coconut Carrot Raisin Salad

May has exploded with activity! Just as strawberries and rhubarb are coming in, I've been running around doing everything but working in my kitchen. I love doing seasonal things, but it sure seems like just about the time all the fruit and veg comes in I want to go out - as in outside to play. Maybe I'll get some canning done in May, but I just don't know.

Last weekend was very busy and fun. We went to our daughter's open studios show at Mill's College on Saturday. We are super proud of her and her good work. On Sunday we had a lovely Mother's Day meal at my aunt and uncles house. I brought cherry cobbler, homemade ginger ale (another post coming soon) and this coconut, carrot and raisin salad. I really like salads like this. You may have noticed that I consider many things salad fodder. This is a traditional salad that is given a little depth and interest with the addition of coconut and pineapple. My father-in-law is convinced of the health benefits of coconut and we've all been trying to work more coconut products in to our diet. Lucky for me, I LOVE coconut!

Coconut Carrot and Raisin Salad
4 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple in juice
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp. sugar or honey

Toss it all and chill until serving time. Yum!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Random Food Fridays - Basic Pancakes

As Special Agent Dale Cooper says, "Nothing beats the taste of maple syrup when it collides with ham."

We don't often have pancakes. When we do, we relish them fully and unreservedly. This means made from scratch. I prefer B grade maple syrup for its intense flavor, and these spring pancakes were gussied up with organic strawberries. (Even Mr. Dwayne says they taste better!)
If you mix this dough and let it stand about 5 minutes before baking, it will become thick and frothy.
My cast iron skillet holds three 4-inch pancakes at a time. Well seasoned cast iron is just about as good as non-stick, only you can't get away with fat-free. Still, a little butter never hurt anyone. That's what I say anyway. You know these babies are ready to turn when the bubbles begin to hold their shape when they pop.
Golden Brown Perfection!

Basic Pancakes
1 cup flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg

Place flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Over the top of the flour, add the milk, butter, vanilla and egg. Whisk to blend and let stand 5 minutes. Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle to medium heat. Bake pancakes on lightly greased surface. When first side begins to bubble and holes remain, carefully flip to complete baking on the second side. Keep pancakes warm in a low oven while you bake the rest of the dough. Serve with warm maple syrup, fresh fruit and grilled ham.

Makes Nine 4-inch pancakes.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Insalata di Ceci e Tonno

Yum, yum, yum! Or as the youngsters say, Nom, nom, nom! This is my lunch for the week. I threw it together on Sunday and realized that it must be a recipe, right? Something this good can't have escaped notice for this long. A google search brought me to Insalata di Ceci e Tonno. This salad deserves an Italian name said with flourish! My version has more ingredients than most I found. Mine also has a Dijon mustard and white wine vinegar based vinaigrette rather than a lemon juice based one. In any case, I enjoyed my lunch very much. Unfortunately, my shirt did too.

I love salad for lunch, but salads, generally, seem to be a distinct danger to the wardrobe. Because beet salad is one of my favorites, I often eat in the privacy of my cubicle so no one will see my extreme measures. (One of which is a napkin tucked in like a bib.) I didn't think these little beans would be just as rascally, but they bounce! Then they roll! One wrong jab with a fork and a tuna oil covered chick pea has made contact with the blouse and continues to make contact down the blouse as it rolls gently to the floor. I'm glad my expeditions under my desk to retrieve errant food stuffs are also relatively private.

That being said, this salad is delicious, and forewarned is forearmed (or fore-napkined). If you make this you must use Genova Tonno. It is beautiful Italian tuna packed in olive oil. So not local, but so unique that if you don't can your own tuna or salmon in olive oil you will not have any alternative. (If there are local alternatives, please tell me!)

Insalata de Ceci e Tonno
1 cup dried garbanzo beans
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tbsp. sliced green onion
1 carrot, diced small
1 celery stalk, diced small
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 5 oz. can Genova Tonno, drained, oil reserved
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 glove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp. coarse Dijon style mustard
1/4 cup white wine vinegar

Well in advance, sort, rinse and soak the beans. A quick soak can be done by placing the beans in a medium sauce pot and covering with several inches of water. Bring to a boil, turn off heat and let stand for at least one hour. Place on the heat and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for up to two hours or until soft. Alternatively, sort, rinse and soak the beans in plenty of water overnight. I often soak in the fridge, although you don't have to if you change the water when you cook them the next day. Overnight soaked beans will take a slightly shorter time to reach tenderness.

When the beans are done, rinse with cold water and allow to drain well as you prepare the other ingredients. Add the beans, parsley, green onion, carrot, celery and cherry tomatoes to a mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine the olive oil from the tuna, salt, pepper, garlic, mustard and vinegar and whisk well. Add the dressing mixture to the salad and toss. Can be served warm, room temp or chilled.