Cooked Salsa

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This salsa recipe is the one that I make in abundance during the summer months for canning purposes. That way, in theory, we have lots of salsa to open during the winter months.

Last year’s salsa only made it to October. So either we eat a lot of salsa, which we do, or I really need to make a lot more. I’m determined to do that this month.

I refer to it as a cooked salsa, as opposed to my go-to fresh salsa, shown below, which requires summer ripe tomatoes.

The great thing about making your own salsa is that you can make it to your own specifications. My husband doesn’t like salsa that’s too vinegarry and I don’t like them sweet, which many purchased salsas are.

I will give you an approximation of my cooked salsa recipe, but I encourage you to create your own recipe that fits you. I don’t like my salsa to be burning hot, but I do like heat and lots of flavor flavor. This salsa recipe contains all of the important basic ingredients that guarantee a wonderful, flavorful salsa. But tweak it as you like.

Cooked Salsa

Lots of tomatoes, about 5 pounds, of any variety but all red
4 tablespoons oil of choice, I use olive oil
3 white onions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
6 green chile peppers like Anaheim or Hatch chiles, finely chopped
6 jalapeno peppers, diced
1 head of garlic, peeled, minced
2 – 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes, or equivalent product
2 bunches of fresh cilantro, mostly leaves, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
A few pinches of cayenne pepper, optional
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon

To begin, peel and seed the tomatoes. To peel tomatoes, get a pot of water boiling on the stove, and have a bowl of icy cold water set to the side. Cut a shallow X opposite the stem end of each tomato, and place a few at a time in the boiling water for about 45 seconds. Remove them to the icy water and repeat with the remaining tomatoes. Let rest on towels once they’re out of the cold water for about one minute. With a paring knife, the peel with come off easily. Then core each one, and remove the seeds.

Chop and place in a bowl; set aside.

Next, chop the onions, finely chop the red bell pepper, stem, de-seed and chop the chile peppers, and dice the garlic. I used a gadget for much of this chopping.

In a large pot, pour in the oil and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them for about 5 minutes. Then add the bell pepper, chile pepper, and garlic dice to the onion mixture and cook gently for about a minute.

Add the fresh and canned tomatoes. Notice I’m using New Jersey crushed tomatoes. It’s a great product!

Cook the mixture, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes. It should not be watery. If it is, cook a little longer. Then add the cilantro and seasonings. Taste.

Stir in the vinegar and cook for about one minute, then stir in the lemon juice. The theory is that the zing is needed from the vinegar, but the lemon juice removes the odor from it. Turn off the stove and let the salsa cool before adding to sterilized jars, if you’re canning..

This post is not a primer on canning but I recommend doing it. We’ve all worried that food will explode, but it won’t! Get yourself a few products, plus a good book. There are safety concerns, but canning is not a big deal.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe. If you want to make salsa during winter months, you can simply use all canned tomatoes, perhaps a mixture of diced and crushed, depending how chunky you want your salsa.

One can certainly get more creative as well, using roasted chile peppers, including chile pepper powders, adding other ingredients like beans, corn, and peaches. It will all work!

Pineapple Gazpacho

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The first time I had pineapple gazpacho was in St. Lucia in the Caribbean. We stayed at Sugar Beach resort, which was beautiful. One day my husband and I signed up for a farm-to-table adventure, which ended with a five-course meal provided by the hotel’s chef.

The whole meal was stunning, but the gazpacho was especially memorable. Maybe because we participated in picking the pineapple in the field.

Or maybe because I got to play chef in the “cold” room of the hotel’s kitchen where prep work is done. I actually put the gazpacho together without knowing any ratios. But I must have done well because the chef approved.

After I placed all of the ingredients in a large bowl, the Chef put everything in a vitamix, and puréed it. Using a very large chinois, the soup was then strained.

At that point we left the prep kitchen and moved into the main kitchen where the chef prepared some sashimi for us, as we watched him cut up the kingfish, which was to be our main.

Eventually we were seated on the outside deck with a view of the ocean, crisp white wine in hand. Then here came the pineapple gazpacho. Isn’t it beautiful!

IMG_5544

It was topped with chopped baby shrimp, cucumber, tomato and a few cilantro leaves, then drizzled with a little oil. So today I’m going to duplicate this gazpacho, if I can, although the tropical ambiance won’t be the same.

Pineapple Gazpacho

3 slices white bread with the crusts
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 medium-sized pineapple, peeled
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded
1/3 cup crème fraiche
Small bunch of cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon salt

Soak the bread in the cream in a bowl.

Chop up the pineapple and place in a heavy-duty blender. Add the cucumber, crème fraiche, cilantro, and all of the remaining ingredients. Add the cream-soaked bread and blend until very smooth. Let sit for a few hours or overnight for the flavors to mingle.

Pour the mixture into a sieve like a chinois and strain well.

Taste for seasoning. It should taste like a fabulous blend of pineapple and cucumber, with a little zing from the hot sauce. It shouldn’t be salty or sweet.

Serve chilled.

The gazpacho is thin, but not watery. It’s very satisfying, and perfect for lunch, or like in St. Lucia, a first course for dinner.

Kedgeree

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A while back on someone’s blog I commented on their kedgeree post that I’d never seen it with salmon, only chicken. She responded that she’d never seen it with anything but salmon! Well that’s when I realized I was mixing up the words kedgeree and biriyani. Yes, nothing in common at all. I’ll blame it on being old.

Both Indian dishes are rice-based, and both are served with hard=boiled eggs… but yet, not really similar. How I could confuse the names is beyond me!

Kedgeree can be as simple as a curried rice topped with prepared salmon, but I wanted something a little more fun, so I reached for Gordon Ramsay’s Cooking for Friends, published in 2009.

His recipe includes salmon and shrimp, but also quail eggs, which I couldn’t get my hands on.

Gordon Ramsay’s Posh Kedgeree

2 3/4 cups chicken or fish stock (I used both)
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
Pinch of saffron strands
9 ounces skinless, lightly smoked salmon fillet
7 ounces large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots, minced
2 tablespoons butter, cut in pieces
1 teaspoon mild curry powder
2 cups basmati rice
12 quail eggs, at room temperature ( used 4 eggs)
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves chopped
Lemon wedges for garnish

Put the stock, thyme, saffron, and a little salt and pepper into a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then gently lower the salmon fillet into the stock and poach for 4 minutes. Lift the fish out with a slotted spatula onto a warm plate. Add the shrimp to the stock and poach just until they turn firm and opaque, about 2 minutes.

I had lightly smoked the salmon using my stove-top smoker before starting this recipe.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to the plate of salmon. Cover with foil and keep warm.

Strain the stock and discard the thyme; set aside. Return the pan to the heat and add the olive oil, shallots, and some seasoning. Fry, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are soft but not browned, 4–6 minutes. Add the butter and curry powder. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, then tip in the rice. Stir and cook for 2 minutes longer, to toast the rice lightly.

Add a generous seasoning of salt and pepper and pour in the stock. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan with a lid and let simmer for 10 minutes. Without lifting the lid, remove the pan from the heat and let the rice stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the quail eggs in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Crack and peel off the skins, then cut each egg in half. I obviously used un-posh, medium-sized chicken eggs.

Fluff the rice with a fork to separate the grains, then taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a bit more butter if you wish. Break the salmon fillet into large flakes and add to the rice, along with the shrimp and most of the chopped parsley. Gently mix the ingredients through the rice. Pile onto warm plates and garnish with the quail eggs, remaining parsley, and lemon wedges.

Serve at once.

The salmon is so tender I might cook it this way in the future. And the slight smokiness is wonderful. Altogether a delightful set of flavors and textures.

Mine was not quite as posh as Chef Ramsay’s, without the quail eggs, but I don’t think I could have peeled a dozen quail eggs, either.

I’m happy with how this dish came out!

Tacos al Pastor

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It all started when I was watching Wes Avila on The Chef Show, making tacos al pastor. If you haven’t heard of my fascination with this show, I highly recommend it. I’ve mentioned in it my spicy pork post – a Roy Choi recipe. He and Jon Favreau host The Chef Show, and in each episode they visit with a chef or someone who loves food and cooking. There’s really no rhyme or reason to the show, which is maybe why I like it. You’re basically a fly on the wall!

Wes Avila, author of Guerilla Tacos, from which I made Chile Colorado, discusses in his episode when the hosts visit him at his restaurant of the same name, how tacos al pastor developed from the influx of Lebanese into Mexico. If you’ve ever had donor kebab, you’ll know that the process of stacking the meat on vertical spits, grilling, and then slicing it off and laying in flatbread or tortillas is the same. The name of the conical shape of the meat is called a trompo.

Below left is a trompo that rotates and cooks vertically in a commercial grill. Notice the pineapple on top! Sometimes the meat is only seasoned with paprika; I’ve figured out that trompo refers to the cone shape rather than a specific recipe. Below right is a vertical skewer I found on Amazon, also known as a Brazilian Gojo barbecue skewer.

When commercially grilled, donor kabob meat is thinly sliced in a vertical direction, but the spit continues to rotate so the meat continues to crisp up on the outside. This is an important aspect to tacos al pastor as well.

Since I’m making the meat in our outdoor charcoal grill, I’m not able to do this as with a commercial rotating grill. However, the meat can be sliced off, and then crisped up later in a little lard on a griddle or plancha before serving. We also made sure to rotate the vertical grill. The following photo is from the Serious Eats recipe page.

Oddly enough, even though Chef Avila makes tacos al pastor in the show, and his cookbook is all taco recipes, there is no recipe for tacos al pastor in his book, so I found one online at Serious Eats by J. Kenji López-Alt. There seem to be many options possible, but I stuck to this recipe because it seemed to contain the most common ingredients.

Tacos al pastor are really a process. Ideally you need 2-3 days to make them. First there is a marination step, then the cooking, then an important chilling step. In his recipe which follows, J. Kenji López-Alt uses a loaf pan to create the compressed and cohesive pork mixture, instead of a vertical grill. This is certainly a reasonable back-up plan, but I just had to try out my spit!

In my photos, you can see the slices of layered pork, solidified together, yet still tender. It’s critical that the pork doesn’t become pulled pork; that’s a very different texture. I could have pulled apart the pork layers, but as an ex-geologist, I like seeing layers!!!

Tacos  Al  Pastor
by J. Kenji López-Alt, updated Jul. 11, 2021
for Serious Eats

For the Pork:
2 whole ancho chiles, seeds and stems removed
2 whole pasilla or guajillo chiles, seeds and stems removed
1/2 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon dried ground cumin seed
1 tablespoon achiote powder or paste
1 chipotle chile packed in adobo sauce, plus 2 teaspoons sauce
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
3 whole cloves garlic
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 pounds boneless blade-end loin or sirloin pork roast (I used 3 pounds pork shoulder, thinly sliced)
8 ounces (1/2 pound) sliced bacon (I used 1 1/2 pounds pork belly, sliced)

To Finish and Serve:
1 small pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into quarters lengthwise
32 to 48 corn tortillas, heated and kept warm
1 medium white onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup finely minced fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 cup basic salsa verde or your favorite salsa (I served a tomato salsa)
3 to 4 limes, cut into 8 wedges each for serving

Place chiles in a large saucepan over medium high heat and cook, turning chiles occasionally, until puffed, pliable, lightly browned in spots, and very aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock (it should boil immediately), then pour contents of pan into a small bowl. Cover loosely and set aside.

Wipe out saucepan, add oil, and return to medium-high heat until oil is shimmering. Add cumin, oregano, and achiote and cook, stirring frequently, until aromatic but not browned, about 30 seconds. Add chipotle chiles and sauce and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds longer. Add vinegar, salt, and sugar and remove from heat.

Scrape contents of saucepan into a blender along with garlic and chiles with their soaking liquid. Blend on high speed until completely smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down sides as necessary. Set sauce aside to cool slightly.

Add marinade to bowl of pork and pork belly slices, and toss with hands until every piece of meat is evenly coated in marinade.

If you’re making the loaf: Line the bottom of a disposable aluminum loaf pan with bacon. Add a layer of thin-sliced marinated meat. Continue layering in bacon and meat until all the meat is used up. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 36.

I used the vertical Gojo, so I began laying slices of pork on the base and working upwards. Top with a pineapple chunk or slice.

To cook outdoors: Light half a chimney of charcoal and allow to preheat until coals are mostly covered in gray ash. Spread out under one half of coal grate, and place cooking grate on top. Alternatively, set one set of burners on a gas grill to low and leave the remaining burners off. Unwrap aluminum loaf pan and place directly over cooler side of grill, placing a drip pan underneath if desired. Cover grill and cook until loaf registers 180 to 190°F in the center, about 4 hours, adding more coals to grill or adjusting burners as necessary to maintain an air temperature of around 275°F for the duration of cooking. Remove from grill, allow to cool slightly, cover with aluminum foil, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

What I have learned from this recipe, is that the marinated pork slices cook low and slow for the perfect texture, with an ending temperature of 180 – 190 degrees. That is why a digital meat thermometer is necessary for this type of cooking.

For tacos al pastor, the meat has to cook beyond an internal temperature of 170 degrees, because that is when the connective tissue of the pork breaks down and the meat coagulates, basically forming a cone-shaped loaf. Also important is that the ambient temperature in the grill doesn’t go over 300 degrees, and in fact, when cooked in an oven, the oven setting is 275 degrees.

For the 4 1/2 pounds of meat, it took exactly 5 hours of cooking, using a whole 25-pound bag of charcoal briquettes. My pork browned a lot on the outside, even though we followed the cooking directions, but it was still tasty, tender, and not burnt.

I roasted chunks of fresh pineapple tossed in a little olive oil with cumin and salt until there was some caramelization.

For my crema, I blended 16 ounces sour cream with one ripe avocado, 2 tablespoons pineapple juice, 1 tablespoon of lime juice, a little oregano and a little salt.

I also toasted the tortillas directly on my stove for more flavor and color.

These taco and all of the accompanying goodies are perfect for company!

My only regret is that I didn’t make more marinade, which is dumb because I used 2 more pounds of meat than directed in this recipe.

There is so much to making tacos al pastor, I’ve discovered, that I encourage you to check out the Serious Eats recipe by J. Kenji López-Alt. There are so many important details regarding slicing the pork, cooking it, and more, that I couldn’t add to this post.

Speidie Sauce

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When I come across something completely new in a cookbook, I get absolutely giddy, especially when it’s not part of an exotic cuisine. Speidie sauce is all-American or, at least, a significant part of upstate New York summer barbecues.

During the pandemic, my daughter and husband escaped to a resort on Long Island over the Thanksgiving weekend. She told me they would be dining at a Charlie Palmer restaurant on Thanksgiving. I hadn’t thought about Charlie Palmer much over the years, but knew he was a highly regarded and successful chef.

When I googled him, I think he was running something like 19 restaurants! The most famous one being Aureole – one in New York City and also in Las Vegas. And if I counted right, he’s written 7 cookbooks.

I became quite intrigued with Charlie Palmer and his longevity, so I purchased American Fare, published in 2015. The cookbook contains really nice recipes – nothing too crazy, nor too plain, and all perfect for home cooking I bookmarked so many recipes, to my amazement.

One recipe jumped out at me, called Speidie sauce, or Charlie’s Speidie marinade. (Speidie is pronounced speedy.)

From the cookbook, “In upstate New York where I grew up, summertime is speidie time. Speidies are beef or chicken kabobs marinated in a locally produced speidie sauce and cooked on the grill. Almost nobody makes their own sauce; it is purchased by the case to take the barbecue master through the entire summer’s grilling.”

Have you heard of such a thing?! I went to my favorite local deli, Amazon.com, and sure enough, found 3 examples of purchasable speidie sauce/marinade. And what’s funny to me is that they all look so different!

Following is Chef Palmer’s speidie marinade recipe, his version that he “happily” shares.

Charlie’s Speidie Marinade
Printable recipe below

2 cups dry white wine
1/4 sherry wine vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup finely minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a non reactive container. Because of the last hand operation, I’m not very good at chopping, so I threw the ingredients into a blender. Yes, sympathy, please!

Cover and allow flavors to blend for at least 1 hour before using. May be stored, refrigerated, for up to 1 week. The marinade can be used for any meat, poultry, or game.

To test out this marinade, I chose to make kabobs with filet mignons, bell peppers, and onions.

The beef and vegetables marinated for 24 hours. After bringing them to room temperature, I grilled the kabobs over coals.

The marinade is good! There is a strong wine, shallot, and dried herb component, which I love.

I served a white bean salad on the side, along with flatbreads.

Honestly, I’d halve the wine, and double the oil. The marinade is tasty, but very “wet”.

 

 

Roasted Jalapeño Salsa

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The recipe comes from the blog Living the Gourmet. The founder of this blog is Catherine Cappiello Pappas, but two other contributors include her son and daughter.

I’ve made the salsa once before, and wanted to make it for the blog so I can share the recipe. I was a bit skeptical at first because it’s not traditional, but it’s wonderful.

I served it with some chicken fajitas, but it would be fabulous with fish!

Roasted Jalapeño Salsa

12 large jalapeños
2 Roma tomatoes
2 heads garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 generous bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons honey
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, or your preferred roasting setting.

Start by preparing the jalapeños. Remove the stems, then slice them vertically around the core of seeds. Discard the seeds and stems. Roughly chop the jalapeño slices and place them in a medium-sized bowl.

Chop the tomatoes into quarters and remove the seeds, then place them in with the jalapeños.

Slice the garlic heads crosswise and bang on them to release the cloves. The intact peels are fine, you just want to remove the root. Add the cloves to the jalapeños mixture. Toss the mixture with the oil and salt, then place it in a baking/roasting dish. Roast until vegetables are caramelized, about 30 minutes.

Let cool, then pinch the peels off the garlic cloves and place the garlic in a food processor; discard the peels. When you’re done, add the roasted jalapeños and tomatoes to the food processor. (If you are able to, pinch off the tomato peels and discard them as well.)

Place the remaining ingredients in the processor and pulse, until the desired texture. I like it a little chunky, not smooth.

This salsa is very good served alongside a black bean dip with chips, which I did before.

If you want to see the individual salsa ingredients more, chop them by hand instead of using the food processor. But the flavor is so good, I don’t mind the slightly mushier texture.

Ms. Pappas also recommends it as a crostini topping, or omelet filling. (Both with feta or goat cheese!)

I see endless possibilities with this salsa!

Olive Bread

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My first experience with yeast was not using it, even though I was supposed to. I’d followed a recipe in the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls cookbook, except not really. It was my thing to do when I was 11-12 years old, to get up early on Sundays and bake some kind of coffee cake.

I chose a recipe for yeasted cinnamon buns that morning, but when it came time to the yeast, being that I didn’t know what is was, I ignored it. I also noticed this kneading thing, which seemed like it would take too long, so a win-win for me.

Until my mother came downstairs and I proudly announced that I’d made these buns, and would she do the honors of removing them from the oven. Well she almost dropped that baking dish. What should have been cinnamon buns were round, heavy bricks. And then I learned about yeast.

When I started teaching myself to cook, I learned how to bake bread by following recipes. When you do it on your own, there’s no fear, even though I have memories of my mother not even letting us walk through the kitchen if she had bread rising. Heck, we were hardly allowed to exhale.

But it seemed pretty easy to me, a few ingredients, some kneading, and I even walked around my kitchen while my breads rose. It’s just not hard to bake bread.

Then a cookbook entered my life called Supper Club chez Martha Rose, which was published in 1988. This book wasn’t extraordinary by any means, but it was a fun read, because it was Martha Rose Schulman’s actual experience with her supper club in Paris that she started in 1983 after she moved to France from Austin, Texas.

Her supper club menus are organized by months, which I love. Some menus reflect her love of Texas, but most all as a Francophile, and lover of Mediterranean flavors. But what got my attention was what she did with her yeasted breads. She added stuff to them!

I’d always made whole-grain bread, because I believe that bread should be nourishing, not just pretty, but when I first saw a pesto bread recipe in her cookbook, it was my Hallelujah moment! It was Martha Rose Schulman who changed my path to creative bread baking. And I’ve never looked back. (I’ve mentioned this cookbook before when I made her Sourdough Country Bread.)

So for all the years my husband required bread, for all of the years I catered and was a private chef, I put stuff into the breads I baked. It could be nuts, it could be grated zucchini, tomato paste, onions and cheese, or chili powder. It all works!

Ms. Schulman has a country bread with olives recipe in her cookbook; today I’m making my version of olive bread. Because, you really don’t need a recipe to bake yeasted breads.

Olive Bread

2 ounces warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
8 ounces whole milk, warmed
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
Extra white flour, for kneading
5 ounces mixed olives, drained

Place the water in a large, warmed bowl and add the yeast and sugar. After the yeast softens stir the liquid, then set aside.

After the yeast bubbles up, about 5 minutes, add the warm milk. Then add 1 cup of white flour and whisk well.

Cover the bowl and place in a warm place for one hour. Meanwhile, chop the olives coarsely and make sure they’re free of any liquid; set aside.

Add one cup of whole wheat flour to the slurry, and whisk or stir in well.

Place a generous amount of white flour where you’re going to knead, and remove the dough from the bowl. Begin kneading the bread, using only as much flour as needed. Knead for about 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth.

Grease the bottom of a large clean bowl, put the dough in it, then turn the dough over so the top is coated in the grease. Place this bowl, covered with a towel, in the warm place for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the chopped olives where you knead, then “pour” the dough over the top. Using only a little flour as necessary, gently force the olives into the dough until they’re evenly incorporated.

Form a ball with the dough and place it on a greased cookie sheet. Set it in a warm place for 15 minutes, then put it in the oven.

Bake the bread for at least 25 minutes. Times and ovens vary. If you want to check on the internal temperature using a thermometer it should be at 195 degrees F. Anything much less than that and the bread will be doughy on the inside.

Let the bread cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

I served the bread with a soft goat cheese; the slices can also be toasted.

If you love olives, this is a great bread. And it goes so well with cheeses and charcuterie.

This actually posted in October of 2018. For some reason, this and a few others showed up as scheduled to post in 2021. I have no idea how this happened, but sorry if you’ve already seen it!

Herbed Ranch Dressing

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Years ago, while eating lunch at a restaurant with my older daughter and her husband, my son-in-law nearly fainted when I ordered ranch dressing for my salad. Knowing my snobbiness towards what I would call “American” foods, like Velveeta, he “threatened” kiddingly that he was going to “tell people!”

Yes, I ordered ranch dressing for a basic side salad; I knew what I was getting because we’d been to this restaurant. The other options were bottled dressings much worse than ranch.

However, if ranch is home-made, just like other dressings and vinaigrettes, it can be pretty wonderful.

This herbed ranch recipe comes from Emily and Matt Hyland, who own a pizzeria, called Emily, in Brooklyn, New York, with a new location in West Village; both restaurants feature wood-burning ovens. These are the young owners:

Emily, the pizzeria, was one of the first to serve ranch dressing… with their pizzas. Their ranch, called Ranch Dressing With Fresh Herbs, is in their cookbook, Emily, published in 2018.

The original Emily ranch recipe was adapted by Julia Moskin, and published online at The New York Times. Julia states that “Ranch dressing and pizza are still a controversial combination, but chef Matt Hyland’s dressing is uncontroversially delicious.”

A good ranch dressing like this one is especially wonderful on a classic wedge salad so that’s what I made.

Herbed Ranch Dressing
Yield: About 1 1/3 cups

¼ cup chilled buttermilk, more as needed
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 cup store-bought mayonnaise
Salt, to taste

In a blender, process the buttermilk, garlic, pepper, chives and parsley together until the herbs are minced and the mixture turns pale green. Add the mayonnaise and process just until smooth. If desired, thin with additional buttermilk to get the consistency you want.

I used a product I’ve fallen in love with – garlic in chili oil. I don’t have to peel garlic, and I like the zing the chili oil offers.

Taste and add salt if needed. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to 3 days.

For the wedge salad, cut an iceberg lettuce into four quarters, after doing any necessary leaf trimming. Place the quarters upright on a plate. Add some dressing, and leave it on the platter for those who want more. Then add sliced tomatoes, chopped purple onion, and bacon bits.

I added Italian dried sofrito, for fun. You could always add coarsely ground black pepper and cayenne pepper flakes.

I personally don’t think wedge salads need cheese. At American restaurants, however, bleu cheese is common, as well as bleu cheese dressing instead of ranch. Each to her own.

To me, if the ingredients are high quality, even if it’s just a salad dressing., chances are that the recipe will turn out well. What I don’t like are ingredients like powdered garlic and onion, and fake dried herbs. Use real ingredients, people!

Creamy Beet Potato Gratin

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The combination of beets and potatoes have been a favorite ever since I had a creamy potato salad with beets in the Cayman Islands. I recreated this salad in a post last year.

This gratin shows off beets and potatoes both, baked in cream with cheese and a little rosemary. I think this would be a great side dish any time of year! And look how pink it turned out!

From the look of the print on this copied, cut and pasted recipe, I most likely got it from a library cookbook. When I couldn’t afford cookbooks I would check them out from the library and copy recipes I liked. I never thought to record the sources, sadly.

I’m so glad I finally made this gratin. It’s fabulous, and pretty!

Creamy Beet and Potato Gratin

3 pounds beets, unpeeled (I used 6)
1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, unpeeled (I used 3)
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated Gruyère
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup fine dried bread crumbs, preferably homemade

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the beets on a steamer rack over boiling water, cover, and steam until tender when pierced with a knife, 30-40 minutes. Remove from the rack and set aside. Steam the potatoes separately in the same way; they should also be tender in 20-30 minutes.

When the beets and potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into 1/4” thick slices, still keeping them separated. A friend taught me how to remove beet peels using a paper towel years ago, and it works so well.

Select a gratin dish just large enough to hold three layers of the sliced vegetables. Grease it with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Arrange half of the beets on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with 1/3 each of the Parmesan and Gruyere, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Dot with 1 tablespoon of the butter.

Arrange all of the potatoes in a layer atop the beets. Sprinkle with half to the remaining cheeses, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Dot with 1 tablespoon of the butter.

Layer the remaining beet slices on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese, salt, pepper, and rosemary.

In a vessel with a spout, combine the cream and milk and pour the mixture evenly over the top. Strew the bread crumbs over the surface and dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.

Place in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, 30-40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm, scooping out portions with a spoon.

Pair this fabulous gratin with a roasted chicken, or shrimp skewers. Obviously, I roasted chicken.

What a fabulous combination. I think any grilled meat would be good, as well as white fish and shrimp.