Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chocolate Truffles

I LOVE to travel and I love France... very beautiful and so charming.
But, I'm not going to lie- I don't really know much French.
The extent of my French language education ended almost 25 years ago. Needless to say, Natalie does not remember too much of that information from way back when. Then again, the education couldn't have been all that extensive. I know there are people who read this who could probably back me up on these memories.

It occurred over several years in my Montessori classroom... (you'll have to imagine the chime-y flashback music here)
Madame Niven (who was actually British and, if you really want to know I have no idea if she was in some way related to David) would waltz in wheeling her "trolley" (which, because she was British, could certainly not be called a "cart"). The trolley housed her supplies.
The children in the classroom would have to head over to the side of the room where an "ellipse" was taped to the floor. Boys would traipse over in their navy blue pants and shoes with white shirts, the girls in gray and white finely striped dresses with sailor collars (complete with little red stars on the corners in the back) and burgundy colored shoes. We could not, mind you, sit in a circle. Oh no, no mere ovals for us either. We sat in an ellipse.

Madame would take out her props and we would learn our vocabulary: colors, shapes, numbers, and the odd necessities for all children such as s'il vous plait, merci, bonjour, au revoir, la poupee (doll) and bonbon (bonbon). The bonbons she showed were not real- they were just colored tissue stuffed into waxed paper with the ends twisted to look like sweets. She had told us that some of the "older" girls has made them for her. For all I know, "older" could have meant third graders.

By the way- my apologies to the French speakers as I do not know how to obtain accents for my letters at this time.

Sadly, one does not go somewhere in France and have an extensive conversation based on colors, numbers, and dolls. Maybe this conversation would be possible in a doll making factory... but the conversation would be pretty short.

My vocabulary has been increased over the years by random French words (not quite sure where many came from) as well as French food words, and although I am able to recognize them, I am not always up on the pronunciation.
I can understand more than I can speak! Maybe I get points for that.
Still, I will not say I am a French speaker by any means.
I took Spanish in high school and college because I thought it would be more useful to me.
I now wish I knew more useful French. I cannot blame this one on Madame Niven- I dropped the ball (but how much blame can a 5-year-old take without knowing how life would turn out? Then again, I was not 5 in high school...). Learning French is on my list of things to do, and I have been meaning (or at least very seriously thinking) to get myself some French lessons- or Rosetta Stone.

It's so sad how for the most part Americans don't know any languages! Many figure they don't have to since everyone else in the whole world is supposed to learn English. Right-o. Keep thinking like that and you will go far my friend.
It seems that in France, for the most part, if you at least try to speak some French, the French people will usually help you. You may feel a little silly, but that's ok. Many of them know English anyway. Just keep your dictionary handy. "Rude American" is definitely not the way to go.

So, anyway, I'm going to go ahead and go back to basics here.
French Chocolate Truffles are pretty easy fare- they seem so impressive though, and they can be sooo good.
You just melt chocolate with hot cream to make a ganache, let cool, roll into balls and toss in cocoa powder. Because they contain so few ingredients, it's good to obtain the best chocolate you can (and by "obtain" I mean buy or trade, not steal).

Chocolate truffles are called "truffles" because they are similar in appearance to the (still wonderful, but not chocolate) fungus truffles that grow near the roots of oak trees, hunted by pigs, and covered in dirt.

P.S. Yes, I know some of you may be concerned that it is still Lent, but I'm giving you this information so you will be prepared for after Lent.

Chocolate Truffles
makes 25-35

8 oz chocolate (Ghiradelli chocolate is pretty good stuff and found in most groceries- and I prefer something darker, such as 60%)
1 T butter
1/2 c heavy cream

Chop chocolate finely and place in a small bowl. Heat cream with butter to simmer in a small saucepan. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit 5 minutes. Stir chocolate and cream until smooth (you have ganache!). Pour into 8x8 inch pan and refrigerate about an hour.

Use a melon baller, small ice cream scoop/cookie scoop, or two spoons to scoop and shape into rough ball shapes.

Toss truffles in cocoa powder to coat.
Eat, but do not inhale cocoa powder (or refrigerate in an airtight container if not serving).

2 T liqueur (Amaretto, Frangelico, Cointreau, Chambord, Brandy...) stirred into chocolate after it has been incorporated into hot cream and prior to refrigerating.

Chopped nuts, shredded coconut, melted chocolate (for a "shell"), powdered sugar, and sprinkles can be used to coat the truffles instead of cocoa powder.
If using something like nuts- it would be easier if you would first melt some extra chocolate, coat the truffle, and then roll it in nuts.

If you plan to coat in chocolate, after rolling ganache into balls, place on sheet pan and refrigerate 20-30 minutes. This will make it easier when dealing with the melted chocolate.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pasta with Scallops, Lemon, and Garlic

When you live alone (or even if it's just a couple people) cooking can be a bit difficult. To make things easier, we sometimes resort to cans of soup, tuna, or ramen noodles. Whatever we can find already "finished" in the cabinet because it's such a hassle to get things out and make a mess for so little.

One day I wanted something good and "real", but wasn't sure what I wanted. I didn't feel like going out or driving somewhere, not even the grocery which I actually walked to since it was about 2 blocks from my apartment. So, I looked around to see what I could find. I threw together this pasta and it turned out to be really good!

While brainstorming I was lucky enough to have some frozen (tiny!) scallops which I ended up thawing inside a plastic bag in a sink of warm water. I hadn't thought to leave some in the fridge to thaw before I left for work that morning.

This is one of those recipes that can be made to taste (more of this, less of that...). The recipe can easily be made for more or less people- just increase or decrease the proportions. I actually used to double a single-ish portion (which was never really exact anyway) and take half for lunch the next day.

For example: for the purposes of this post the bag of scallops was 16 oz (1 lb.) and said it had about 5 servings. I was cooking for 3 people, so I decided to use about 3/5 of the bag. Nothing exact. I used about 2/3 to 3/4 of the 1 lb box if pasta I had. See? No rocket science here. Just fractions.

When I made this, I used what I had around. If you don't have or don't like spinach, it's ok. I would say it might be good to have some parsley in there for color though.
If, when everything is all finished, you think it needs more lemon juice- just sprinkle it on. Adjust things as you see fit.

Using both butter and olive oil can be a good thing- butter for the flavor, and olive oil because it has a higher smoking point and will not burn as easily. However, if you want to use just one (no problem with that), go for the olive oil. This oil, along with lemon juice, liquid from the scallops and the flavors you add, essentially becomes your pasta sauce.

I'm not so much a fan of spaghetti, linguini, and angel hair pastas. Especially not the angel hair because, personally, I feel like it chokes me...
I really prefer the shapes- because they look interesting and because I like the texture. I also think it performs much better al-dente-wise than the spaghetti-style pastas.

So, these scallops are "fresh frozen" at sea. It make me wonder if they have a giant flash freezer on the boat. How do those things work, anyway? Do you need electricity for something like that? It sounds dangerous out in the middle of the ocean. They probably have a lightening rod on the boat too- life on the edge, I'm sure.
Maybe it's solar powered... or it uses a gasoline-powered generator...
BUT, maybe they just sail with tons of liquid nitrogen or dry ice. Catch them, clean them, throw them in the deep freeze.
It's not really something I ever looked into seriously as I wasn't so keen on becoming a deep sea fisherman. It was something I sort of wondered with fish sticks a long time ago (how one would freeze something on a boat)- but the occupation of "fish sticks" wasn't really on my radar.
Maybe that one (along with my fishy naivety) has something to do with a general lack of "sea" in the Midwest.

Lemon, Scallop, and Garlic Pasta
Serves 3-5

2/3 lb. pasta of your choice
3T olive oil
3T butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 lb. scallops
zest and juice from 1/2 large lemon (2-3 T juice)
1/2 t kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
Parmesan (fresh grated if you have it)
3 oz fresh baby spinach (approximately 3 handfuls)
2 medium tomatoes, large dice (or cherry tomatoes, halved)

Bring pot of salted water to boil, add approximately one serving of pasta and cook per instructions on package. Do not overcook pasta!

Place cleaned spinach in large bowl and set aside.

Melt butter with olive oil in small frying pan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and saute for a minute, but do not let the garlic brown. Add scallops and cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn off heat. Add lemon juice, zest, salt, a good grinding of fresh black pepper and toss with scallops.

Drain pasta and toss with scallops and sauce in pan. Pour scallops and sauce into bowl with spinach. Spinach will wilt with residual heat from pasta. Fold in tomatoes. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan and pepper to taste.

Note: Scallops and sauce should stay warm for a little while- and if you need to, you can add the salt and pepper and just keep them in the pan on low or warm heat. Prior to adding pasta to pan, stir in lemon juice and zest.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tangerine Sorbet

Sometimes you need a light little dessert OR something really sunny and citrusy (there seems to be a theme going on here...). Might I suggest a tangerine sorbet?

This may be just what you want- it's just the kind of thing I want now that spring is here. Not that the weather reflects this at the moment...

It's is great served with crumbly shortbread or lacy and crispy tuiles.

If you have an ice cream maker, great- definitely use it (it will take less time and attention this way). If you do not happen to have an ice cream maker, you could pour the sorbet base into a 9x13 inch pan, place in the freezer and stir every 20 minutes or so until it's the right (slushy/sorbet-y) consistency, pour into a container and stir in the rum. The purpose of the rum is to make sure the sorbet does not freeze rock hard!

This recipe comes from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. It was suggested by a very Italian boss of mine once upon a time and it's frequently a go-to for Italian recipes over here.

Tangerine Sorbet

1 c sugar
Zest of 1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon (without digging into the white pith)
Freshly squeezed juice of 2 large or 4 small tangerines
Juice of large or 2 small oranges
Juice of 1 lemon
1 egg white
3 T rum

Place sugar and 1 c water in saucepan. Turn on the heat to medium and stir from time to time until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the syrup into a bowl.
Add zests as well as tangerine, orange, and lemon juices. Mix well with the syrup and allow mixture to become completely cold.
Lightly beat the egg white until frothy, and stir into juice mixture.
Pour mixture into ice cream freezer and freeze per manufacturer's instructions. When done, transfer to container with a tight seal, stir in the rum, distributing it thoroughly. Close the container and freeze at least an hour (or even longer).

When ready to serve, you can place scoops in hollowed and frozen tangerine shells.
Slice off the tops of tangerines, scoop out the segments (you can use them for the tangerine juice in the recipe), and freeze at least an hour.

I happened to use some really tiny clementines for tangerine juice- they're great, but gave me very small shells to serve the sorbet in (not that you must serve it in them...)
If you do want to use the shells, freeze them after you've cleaned them so they're ready when you want to serve the sorbet.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lemon Curd

So... I love lemons.
When I cook a full several-course meal, I usually use lemons in there somewhere.
Lemon in salad dressing, lemon with chicken or fish, lemon in a sauce or jus, lemon spritzed on vegetables, lemon in dessert...

It's a pleasant sort of addiction, and there's nothing offensive or illegal about it.
If I go to a restaurant I will normally ask for water with lemon. I then proceed to squeeze the wedge in my water, my eye, and on anyone who might be sitting near me. I can assure you that whoever it might be feels happy and all the fresher for the nice lemony shower.

Lemon curd is a way I can make something lemony that will last a little longer than many other things (technically, it should last about 2 weeks, but I don't know that it's ever had the chance over here). You can make it a little ahead and use it with dessert (like on top of a slice of pound cake with strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream).
It's also great for "teas" or one of those things where everyone is supposed to contribute a snack of some sort.

It's great on toast, with scones, or served with whole strawberries, fingers of pound cake, and graham crackers for dipping. You could use it between layers of a layer cake or as the filling for mararons. It would be nice to have a little dollop on top of vanilla ice cream and sprinkled with blueberries. It may sound a little strange, but we also like it with ginger snaps and pretzels at my house.
You could also pour this into mini tart shells- I don't go for a larger tart because it's not thick enough in my opinion. If I did use it in a tart I'd pre-bake the shell, pour in the lemon curd, and bake it again to set it a little better. I'd probably cool it completely and then refrigerate a while to make sure it was solid enough to cut.

This recipe will make about 3 cups and is adapted from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten.

(Before cooking)

(After cooking)

It also works great with limes!
Either way, when choosing citrus fruit, try to find fruit that's heavy for it's size. That way you'll have a better chance of having plenty of juice. It can be so disappointing to cut open a dried out lemon with practically nothing inside. And it LOOKED so good on the outside...

If you don't have unsalted butter lying around, just use the salted kind and omit the additional salt in the recipe.

Lemon Curd

3-4 lemons
1 1/2 c sugar
1/4 lb. unsalted butter at room temperature
4 extra large eggs at room temperature
1/2 c fresh lemon juice (from 3-4 lemons)
1/8 tsp kosher salt

Finely zest 3 lemons into the sugar you have placed in a bowl and stir (try not to include any of the bitter white pith that's just below the zest). Cream butter in another bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer). Add sugar and lemon to butter and mix together until incorporated and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, and make sure each is incorporated before adding the next. Pour in the lemon juice and salt and mix until combined (it may not look too pretty at this point, but it gets better as it cooks).

Pour mixture into a 2 qt saucepan and stir constantly (so you don't get scrambled eggs) over low heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. This should happen at about 170 degrees F- just below a simmer (get out the thermometer if you're uncomfortable about deciding the appropriate thickness). Remove from heat, pour into jar/bowl etc. and refrigerate.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Italian Wedding Soup

Sometimes you just really want a good soup for dinner.
Italian Wedding Soup is homey, comforting, and pretty easy: cook meatballs in broth, add greens, pasta/egg/Parmesan (depending on the recipe) and voila! Dinner.

I am not Italian. I have never been to an Italian wedding.
I don't really know what it's like, but I have my suspicions.

Make no mistake- this is, of course, the reception part of the wedding...
Bouffants are definitely wedding-appropriate.

Back to the soup...
The most special thing is the meatballs- bite-sized and flavorful ones that will fit on a spoon.

If you're lucky enough to have small assistants (gnomes, leprechauns, and children included in this category) you may want to use them here. If someone needs a project to keep them occupied this could be really good... it's also good for working on fine motor control, tactile defensiveness, matching/similarity, and counting skills. However, helper appropriateness does depend on whether people are used to licking their hands (not recommended here), touching everything with those hands before washing them, and also on attention span (of course).

It makes, hyperbole aside, (roughly) one billion meat balls (which- as a side note- causes me to imagine the non-Italian Carl Sagan saying, "...billions and billions of stars...")

This recipe comes from Giada de Laurentiis's book Giada's Family Dinners. You could actually find it online at (which is a great resource if you're looking for something specific), but I have it all typed out for you here!

Escarole is a ruffled leafy green. It looks like lettuce, but it's not so tender. In my opinion, it's better after being cooked a bit.

These would be great in the soup- I may cook some next time, put it in the bottom of a bowl and ladle the soup on top.

I'd recommend at least doubling the meatballs (even if you don't plan on doubling the whole recipe), as they are the most time consuming things to make! You end up making many if you make them small enough, but also because a single recipe calls for 1/2 pound each of sausage and ground beef and it's more likely to be found in 1 pound increments.

Why not get a whole bunch done at once? I was able to make 173 meatballs with the doubled recipe. Meatballs freeze nicely, so you're ahead of the game next time you want to have this soup. Just freeze the meatballs on a pan and throw half of them into a freezer bag!

Awww. Aren't accordions romantic? They really set the mood.

Italian Wedding Soup
serves 8

1 small onion, grated
1/4 c chopped flat leaf parsley
1 large egg
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c plain dried bread crumbs
8 oz lean ground beef
8 oz ground pork

10 c reduced sodium chicken broth
1 lb. escarole, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs
2/3 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make meatballs: In large mixing bowl stir together onion, parsley, egg, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir in cheese and bread crumbs. Using hands, mix in ground pork and beef. Shape mixture into 1 inch meatballs, making approximately 75 balls. Place on a baking sheet.

To make soup: Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high. Add the meatballs and escarole and simmer until meatballs are cooked through and escarole is tender- about 10 minutes. In medium bowl whisk together egg and cheese. Add egg mixture to the soup slowly, stirring with a fork to form thin strands of egg, about 1 minute. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fresh Pasta!

Pasta is excellent if you can get it fresh (not that it's not great anyway... but it's especially good fresh). The texture is chewier and more robust/meaty.

If you've never tried it, this is your big chance- AND you can learn to make it yourself.
As for tools you don't NEED a pasta machine. The machine does make things much easier, especially if you're working with larger quantities of pasta, but all you would really need is a rolling pin and a knife. You could cut the pasta into noodles, or use the sheets to make lasagna or ravioli.

This particular recipe is adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. It's a very good book (that ANYONE could really use), and yes, among MANY other things there are plenty of vegetable recipes included.

We'll go for the "plain" egg pasta today. The recipe makes about a pound of pasta enough for 4 large servings or 6 smaller ones. The dough is fairly stiff, so you may want to split the recipe in 1/2 and make it twice (as in having 2 one cup recipes to work instead of one larger recipe). This is especially good if you have someone else who can help with it since this is the "by hand" version of pasta from scratch.

To cook pasta you need a large pot of salted water (supposedly 6 qt per 1 lb) so the pasta has plenty of room. Salt does not mean a pinch of salt, actually. Well salted is more like it. I read somewhere that you want pasta water to taste like sea water. I don't know that I ever use quite that much (*choke*), but Deborah Madison says 1 t per qt. You should have a rolling boil before adding the pasta, and while the pasta is being added you want to stir to prevent noodles sticking in clumps.

Fresh pasta should take 3-7 minutes to cook, so you need to watch (and test) carefully to get "al dente" pasta. Once you have drained the pasta add to sauce. It's usually a good idea to reserve some of the pasta water to add in case you need to thin the sauce.

Fresh Pasta

2 c flour
2 large eggs
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/4 t salt

Put the flour onto clean counter, shape into a mound and make a well in the center. Place eggs, oil, and a few pinches of salt into the well. Break them up with a fork and gradually begin pulling the flour from the sides. Eventually the mixture will begin to get too still to use the fork and you'll have to start using your hands. Bring more flour into the eggy mixture until you have a smooth dough mass that no longer sticks to your hands. The dough will be pretty stiff (it takes quite a bit of wrist work) and you will probably not end up using all the flour!

*When you can no longer add flour, pass remaining flour from counter through strainer and discard lumps. Return flour to counter. Knead dough, picking up as much flour on the counter as the dough will hold. (see below)

Silky and moist, but not sticky is the texture you want (5-10 minutes of kneading). Slip dough into plastic bag to rest for 10-15 minutes before rolling it out. You'll definitely notice the dough is easier to work with after the rest period.

*The dough will be shaggy and dry- knead until it smooths out. At this point you probably wouldn't want to try to incorporate more flour. I actually push the flour aside and knead on a relatively clean counter... I have flour close by if I need to add more.

Look at how much of the flour wasn't used! Put it through a sieve and save the flour for dusting the finished pasta so it won't stick to itself.

By machine per Natalie:
Cut off about 1/3 of the dough (because it's easier to work with) and flatten slightly. Have machine set to the greatest thickness and put dough through machine. Fold flattened dough onto itself and put through machine a second and third time. Go to the next smallest setting on the machine- the notch will click into place. Run the dough through the machine and repeat several times as above. Continue repeating until dough is of desired thickness. If dough becomes too long to handle with one hand while cranking the pasta machine with the other, you can definitely cut the sheet of pasta.

When ready to cut, add cutting attachment and run pasta sheet through machine. Toss pasta in a little flour to keep strands from sticking together and place on a sheet pan. You can cook the pasta immediately or keep it covered up to several hours with a clean kitchen towel (I usually let it dry out a little for an hour or so before I use it... I think it's because I'm afraid of it immediately sticking together in a mass if I cook it right after I make it).

By hand ("pasta rustica") per Natalie:
I would probably recommend separating pasta into thirds again as it's easier to work with. Roll dough to desired thickness, fold onto itself and roll again. Repeat several times. If you find partway through rolling the dough no longer wants to cooperate and is springing back instead of rolling out, cover with plastic and let rest 10 minutes or so while you go on to another bit of dough before coming back to it.

When you have your desired thickness of pasta, fold sheet onto itself several times and cut noodles to whatever width you like.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Marinated Mushrooms

Once upon a time I wanted to make marinated mushrooms for a party, but I couldn't find a recipe that was quite what I was looking for. And so, I made one up. The end.

Mushrooms in general are really great, we won't discriminate (I know AA would totally agree with me on this one- you know who you are, and NO, for the rest of you I do not refer to Alcoholics Anonymous here).

However, for this recipe we'll go with something simple. Plain old white button mushrooms found at any grocery store are a great canvas to work with- they're like little sponges to soak up flavor. Not that they don't have a flavor of their own, but their flavor is mild and fairly easy to compliment- the possibilities could be practically endless. Let's not get too crazy with that statement though. There are some things one would not want combined with our friend the mushroom. I was actually about to say "chocolate" but (believe it or not- you MAY think me crazy... or totally revolting...) I recently bought a chocolate bar with mushroom in it. I was very curious. I have not tried it yet though. Another thing you may find strange is bacon and chocolate- BUT you can find bacon chocolate, and it's actually quite good.
Anyway, we were talking mushrooms here... um... nothing is coming to mind at this point. All I'm coming up with are savory examples. I'll have to think about this.

These mushrooms are great as part of an antipasto/hors d'oeuvre/tapas selection.

Some tips:

It's best if you can use a pot with a large surface area as you will have MANY mushrooms and they'll cook more evenly this way.

The original recipe called for 2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary. However, it's *still* winter and most things do not grow so well outdoors in the winter in Missouri. I didn't want to go to the store, and ended up using 3 sprigs very dried out rosemary and 3 sprigs of good looking thyme. Feel free to substitute whatever sounds good or what is available.

The original recipe also called for 5 t salt (total... and I'm not sure why I had it written as so much- did I really use 5 t salt?). I cut it a bit- 2 t added with mushrooms and 1 t added with wine this time. Just a change from the original, andI think the salt content was just fine with the smaller amount.

Marinated Mushrooms

3 lbs. button mushrooms washed and trimmed at end of stalk
9 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
kosher salt
1 bottle dry white wine
1/2 T red pepper flakes (depending on how hot you like it)
10 black peppercorns
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 bay leaves

Pour about 1 cup olive oil into large saucepan/soup pot (the one I used was 12 or more inches in diameter). Heat oil over medium heat until it shimmers and add garlic. Saute a few minutes, but do not let garlic brown. Add mushrooms and sprinkle with 2 t salt. Toss mushroom in garlicky oil and cook over medium (low) heat about 20 minutes. Stir frequently, but gently- be careful not to break up mushrooms. The mushrooms will give up some liquid and reduce quite a bit.
Pour wine into pot and add rosemary, bay, red pepper, peppercorns, and 1 t salt. Simmer about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and let cool in wine about an hour. Pour through colander over bowl to separate wine mixture from mushrooms. Discard bay, rosemary, and peppercorns.

Place mushrooms in container with lid. Add strained wine mixture to completely submerge mushrooms, top it off with a layer of olive oil if you wish and cover tightly with lid. Place in fridge for a few days and stir/shake once a day. I like to sprinkle the mushrooms with a little extra red pepper before refrigerating.

Makes about 3-4 cups mushrooms.

The olive oil in the marinade as well as the olive oil you might add will solidify in the refrigerator. Just break it up a bit when stirring mushrooms. You may serve room temperature or slightly warmed. Cold mushrooms would not be my recommendation for this one because I personally prefer olive oil as a liquid. So, warm slightly in a saucepan and either let cool or eat warm.

Mushrooms should last about 10 days in the refrigerator.

Leftover marinade/oil mixture is great for dipping bread when mushrooms are gone!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Greek Salad

Sometimes you really need a good salad. I remember in college how the fruits and veggies in the dorm were sort of sub-par. The town where college happened to be didn't have the freshest produce- not being a "big city" type of place.

It's amazing how much I appreciated having good fruits and vegetables when I was at home during breaks. It was the same thing with leftovers- in school "leftovers" weren't all that enticing. During college and beyond my opinion of leftovers had changed.

I truly prefer fresh made dressings (especially vinaigrettes) to bottled because you control what's in the dressing. Besides, it's so tasty and it doesn't take much extra time at all.

Greek Dressing

3 T red wine vinegar
1 1/2 t fresh lemon juice
2 t minced fresh oregano (or 1 t dried)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t salt
pepper to taste
6 T extra virgin olive oil

Whisk everything but olive oil together in small bowl. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking to incorporate.

I use dried oregano, and I like to let the dressing sit at room temperature at least an hour so that the oregano and garlic have a little time to infuse. Just make sure to re-whisk before tossing with lettuce.

To assemble the salad you can use whatever sounds good to you. I like to toss the lettuce with dressing in a large bowl and then sprinkle everything else on top of individual plated salads.
The dressing will coat about 2 large chopped hearts of romaine (or to taste), enough for 4 large lunch-sized salads.

Here's my list of things I think are good for a Greek salad:

Chopped and washed romaine letuce
Cherry tomatoes (I like to cut them in half so they don't roll around on the plate)
Cucumber (if a little bitter, you can scoop out the seeds)
Kalamata olives
Green onions (you can use red if you like, but I prefer these because they're not as strong)
Feta cheese

It's great served with pita bread warmed in the oven so it's a little toasty in the outside.