Home Cooking Recipes
home cooking recipes                                            home cooking recipes
Quick & Easy
By Beverly Barbour

Dress those naked salad greens, other raw vegetables

Yes, you can steam, sauté, grill or roast vegetables but a simple way to eat them is as crudities, served raw with a robust dressing. Tender salad greens also like a light toss with a vinaigrette or dressing, but you don't need to spend the time or refrigerator space on bottles of dressings. Instead check the cupboard and refrigerator for ingredients that can be quickly whipped into a company-ready dressing.

Vinaigrettes--Oil and an acid ingredient, such as vinegar or lemon juice or wine, form a temporary emulsion that coat and gently flavor delicate greens and moisten vegetable salads.

The basics:

1. Acidic Ingredients: Choose from mildly acidic ingredients--rice vinegar; dry, unoaked white wine; orange juice; OR from more tart acidic ingredients: Sherry and red wine vinegars; Cider vinegar; White wine vinegar falls somewhere in between.

2. Oils: Can be have little flavor of their own (think canola or light olive oil) or be flavorful (hazelnut, sesame or peppery extra virgin olive oil)

3. Proportions: Use the right amount of oil to vinegar to balance the acidity. A ratio of 1 part vinegar (or any acid) to 3 parts oil is typical, but it just depends on how tart you want it to be. You can just shake and pour; or you can add each separately; or you can make an emulsion by slowly whipping the oil into the vinegar, starting drop-by-drop and increasing to a thin stream as the emulsion forms. Mustard helps to hold the emulsion and adds a zippy taste to salad dressings.

Dairy based dresssings--Sour cream or plain yogurt forms the base for many dressings and dips.

The basics:

1. Ingredients: Sour cream or yogurt; Lemon juice, to taste; Milk or buttermilk, to thin the dressing; Mayonnaise, can be added to add a touch of sweetness and to help thicken if thin

2. For liveliness: A pinch of cayenne or hot sauce; Blue cheese, crumbled (save some for sprinkling over salad); Goat cheese; Parmesan or any hard cheese, grated

American Style French Dressing--Ketchup is used on and in many everything from meatloaf to French fries, including America's version of French dressing. Mayonnaise is also a popular condiment. Combine both in a quick dressing that's spiced up with a hit of hot sauce or cayenne, or both.

The basics:

1. Ingredients: Mayonnaise; Ketchup, for color and sweetness; hot sauce and/or cayenne pepper, optional; Pickle relish, for the start of a Thousand Island dressing.

2. Variations: Chopped pickles or gherkins; Capers, rinsed; Mustard, from a jar or powdered, or any variation; Olives, any kind, chopped; Herbs, your choice

Other ingredients to keep your guests guessing: Curry paste, fish sauce, nut butters (sesame, tahini, peanut, etc.), spices (toast and grind before using for extra flavor), vinegars (rice, white, red wine, champagne, sherry, balsamic), Worcestershire sauce, anchovies (use the oil, too), citrus juices, fresh salsas, Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, sour cream, sun-dried tomatoes (in oil), yogurt.

Simple Vinaigrette

Can be made a day ahead, refrigerated and brought to room temperature before serving. Add shallots or garlic with a light hand since they'll become stronger with time.

3 to 6 tablespoon vinegar or any acid ingredient, or mixture
3/4 cup oil, or mixture of oils
Salt and pepper
Optional ingredients:
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced shallots or scallions
1/2 to 1 teaspoon minced or pressed garlic cloves
Chopped herbs or herbes de Provence

Whisk the vinegar together with the mustard, if using. While continually whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in anything else you like. Makes about 1 cup.

Simple Blue Cheese Dressing

Some blue cheeses are saltier than others, so taste before adding salt. Some yogurts are tangier than sour cream, so the dressing may not need as much lemon juice.

2 oz. crumbled or chopped blue cheese, or to taste
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon milk or as need
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix the blue cheese with sour cream, smashing the cheese with a sturdy spoon to incorporate the flavors. Add lemon juice if using a mild sour cream and thin with milk as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Makes about 1 cup.

Spicy French Dressing

Because capers and pickles are briny, add to dressing and then taste before adding salt.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 to 3 teaspoons hot sauce, or to taste (if using Tabasco, cut this down a lot)
Salt and pepper

Optional: Chopped pickles or gherkins; Capers, rinsed; Mustard of any kind; Olives, chopped; Herbs (basil is particularly good).

Stir together mayonnaise, ketchup, lemon juice and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in anything else you find in the kitchen or garden. Makes 1 cup.


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