I have always wanted an indoor herb garden. Every year I go a little nuts planning what herbs I will plant and then decide it would be too expensive and decide not to do it. Last year I decided to scale my plans down to a managable level and give it a try. I planted oregano, thyme, basil, and cilantro. The plants did pretty well until one of my animals disappeared for a total of 7 days. On the 3rd day after Callie disappeared, I woke up to the utter destruction of my herb pots. I couldn’t blame Callie for eating my herbs. She was literally starving.
The experiment did well enough before Callie got to the pots that I decided to try it again. This year, I found a pot that has thyme, rosemary and basil in it. You can see from the picture that they plants are already established and ready to use. I have been looking for ways to use up my bounty. It’s horribly hot here in North Dakota so I have been eating a lot of salads so I though salad dressings might be a good place to start. This is one of the first recipes I tried with my fresh herbs.
I used to laugh at the people I knew who made their own salad dressings. It seemed like such a ridiculous thing to do when a person has so many to choose from right from the grocery store shelf. Then I joined Weight Watchers and started reading labels very carefully. It was then I realized most salad dressings are very high in sugar, fat and many other things I can’t pronounce. If I can’t pronounce it, it probably isn’t very good for me. It seemed to me I was undoing all the good things I was trying to do for my body with Weight Watchers by using these products. I began making my own salad dressings and I haven’t looked back since.
My second recipe every beginning cook should know is the basic vinaigrette.
The basic recipe for a vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 2 parts vinegar the rest of the ingredients are up to you. I have included 3 recipes for vinaigrette to show you how infinitely variable they are. I think once you try them you will find them better then anything you can buy.
Put salt, mustard and vinegar in a small jar and shake it to dissolve the salt. Pour in the oil and shake throughly again. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Drizzle over your salad greens.
I have been aware quite sometime that I am losing my sense of smell. It is a genetic thing because my dad lost his sense of smell years ago. It is scary because as a cook, I am very aware of how much your sense of smell and sense of taste are entwined. My dad says his lack of smell hasn’t effected his sense of taste. So far, losing my sense of smell has only effected my sense of taste n one way. I like bigger, bolder flavors than I used to. Flavors that used to be too much for me, like cumin and pepper jack cheese, are now some of my favorite flavors.
This cranberry vinaigrette has a tang to it that I really like. It goes well with stronger flavored greens, like kale. I like this dressing thicker than my usual salad dressings so I just mash the cranberries with a fork. If you like your dressings thinner give it a whirl in a blender.
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup canola oil
1 TBS Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
In a small saucepan combine the cranberries, brown sugar, orange juice and vinegar. Bring to a boil and simmer until the berries burst, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. When cool place the rest of ingredients in a blender or food processor. Add the cranberry mixture and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until cool. Use on assertive salad greens, over ice cream and any other thing you can think of.
Tonight I feel like a contestant on the cooking show Chopped. The mystery basket ingredients are raw wheat germ, a peach, Turkish figs and garlic scapes. I am the contestant with the, WTF??? What do I do now?? Look on my face. The bad part is I don’t have a group of people behind the scenes to blame for my mystery basket. I did it to myself.
This crazy group of ingredients is what happens when I make an impulsive trip to my favorite foodie store without my list. Fortunately, unlike Chopped, I don’t have to use all these ingredients into a cohesive appetizer, entrée, and dessert. I can use these ingredients individually. So lets start with garlic scapes.
I had never heard of garlic scapes before but they looked so pretty, all green and curly. I just had to try them. I did a little research and discovered garlic scapes are the part of garlic that grows above ground. The scapes are usually removed so all the energy goes into growing a bigger head of garlic. Scapes have a very mild garlic taste so they can be used as a substitute for garlic cloves in a recipe. The next most popular way to use scapes is in a pesto. I, however, needed a salad dressing so I tried he recipe for garlic scape salad dressing.
The original recipe called for white wine vinegar but I didn’t have any so I used rice wine vinegar instead. It also called for using a blender to purée the scapes completely smooth. I just minced my scapes as tiny as possible.
2 TBS garlic scapes, very finely chopped
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup vinegar
1 TBS honey
1 Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
Mince the scapes as finely as possible. Combine all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. This dressing is best if it sits for a few hours before using.