Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette

It’s been a long time since I posted this vinaigrette dressing, and it’s something that I make at least once a week. So, here ya go:

Here is how to make a quick and easy salad dressing that is healthier, cheaper, and about one million times more delicious than any of the bottled vinaigrettes that you have in your fridge. It’s perfect on salads, sandwiches, and mixed into mayonnaise for a party dip. Try not to drink it with a straw. 

Classic Vinaigrette

 

Ingredients

-1 tbsp. mustard (I love a fruity one, but honey dijon or grainy is also great)

-1/3 cup olive oil (a lemon or herb infused one is really nice, while chile or garlic can be overpowering)

                                                              -3 tbsp. vinegar (balsamic, sherry, red wine, port, fig…anything  A wine-y dijon mustard works well with a lighter red wine vinegar.  Sweet mustard matches with a heavier, darker vinegar.  Spicy mustard pairs well with sweet fig or sherry vinegar.  Experiment and see what works for you!)

-salt and pepper to taste

-1 diced shallot or 1/2 diced sweet Vidalia onion

1. Combine the onions/shallots and olive oil.

 

 

2. Add the vinegar. 

3. Add the mustard and whisk, baby, whisk. 

  

4. Add salt and pepper and taste for seasonings. 

5. Now just pour that dressing over your salad and enjoy. 

This is so tasty. It’s light, tangy, bright, and not too sharp. You can add some sugar but I never think that it needs any sweetness. I love it and often add herbs or some Romano cheese to the mix. 

And I do sometimes spoon it straight out of the jar. 

So, what the hell, you can, too. 

5 Easy Ways to Throw an Impromptu Cocktail Party

5 Easy Ways to Throw an Impromptu Cocktail Party

Because I was recently reminded that any time that people come over for a friendly drink is a chance to remind them that you are the host(ess) with the most(ess).

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1. Warm olives in olive oil over the pan with dried rosemary/herbs de provence

Hands down the EASIEST way to seem gourmet. Just take any ole’ can (or even jar) of olives, throw them into some olive oil over low heat and warm for 5 minutes or so – until the olives are fragrant and the oil is warm. Add the herbs for the last 2 minutes or so, making sure that they don’t burn. Serve in ramekins with any bread you have and bada boom – you’re Martha Stewart with a bar snack.

2. Cool beer/wine quickly

Not my tip, check out Crazy Russian Hacker for the greatest tip…maybe ever? Just load up on a couple of those compressed air canisters at an office supply store and you will never have to put ice cubes in your Sauvignon Blanc again. 

3. Boil cinnamon water

Cher was right…men (and women) DO like to smell something baking. But who has time for that? Throw some cinnamon into a pot of boiling water and your house will smell better than you ever knew imaginable. Feel free to throw some cloves and/or orange rind in there, too. It looks like swamp water but it is a delicious scent that envelops your home in just 15 minutes. This even covers the scent of fish in case you made salmon for lunch. 

4. Sweetened condensed milk in coffee/espresso

Maybe it’s a coffee date, not cocktail hour. Don’t worry about fresh milk or even sugar. If you pull out a can of sweetened condensed milk and stir it into your guests’ coffee or tea, they will think that you are an angel from culinary heaven. It’s sweeter and more delicious than any milk or cream could be and it lasts until infinity in your pantry. 

Plus, leftovers mean that you can finish the can as a midnight snack. 

5. Cream cheese and truffle honey

I made this once for the foodiest gal that I know because I didn’t have any good cheese in the house. I served it with leftover pita chips. It was astoundingly good – she couldn’t stop raving and didn’t believe that it was lowly cream cheese. Throw some lavender salt in there if you have it lying around for an extra layer of fragrant flavor. Serve it with grapes, crackers, crudites…whatever!

From the Vault: Apple Brussels Sprout Hash

*Because this didn’t quite make it over when I switched blog platforms 3 years ago and it’s still cold enough to justify bacon for dinner.*

If you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, this dish may change your mind.

Apple and Brussels Sprouts Hash

Ingredients:

1 small container Brussels sprouts, washed and halved (with outer leaves removed)

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 package bacon

1 peeled apple, diced

2 – 3 Tbsp. maple syrup (plus extra, to taste)

olive oil, to saute

salt and pepper, to taste

 1) Preheat the oven to 350 F, place the halved sprouts on a tinfoiled baking sheet, drizzle heavily with olive oil, and stick them in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the sprouts are charred without and tender within.

 2) While the sprouts roast, pour some olive oil in a pan over medium heat. When the oil starts to make ripples, add the…

 onions and apples. Let them sautee for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the apples start to turn golden.

 3) Add the bacon

 and sautee for about 20 minutes, or until the bacon is brown and crispy, the onions are sweet, and the apples are soft. You want really nice, crunchy bacon here to contrast with the soft elements in the dish, but don’t turn up the heat. The point is to render the fat slowly so the bacon cooks evenly without being black on the edges and raw in the middle.

 4) When the sprouts are done (just taste them…when there is a tiny bit of resistance to your teeth, they are done), take them out and add them to the pan.

 5) Add the Brussels sprouts and maple syrup to the pan. Stir the ingredients around gently, so you don’t break the sprouts apart but so that the maple syrup melts into all of the components.

 6) Taste for maple syrup, salt and pepper and serve!

 This is a side dish for people who love sweets. The apples, onions, and maple syrup make this positively sugary. In fact, I add a heavy dose of pepper to balance out the sweetness, though my sister likes it au naturale. The crispy bacon mimics the crispy sprouts, and the entire mixture is a sweet, salty, crunchy, and tender delight.

I could top this with a fried egg, or it is also delicious over a baked sweet potato.

Might as well eat it now, since it’s obviously going to snow until July. 

Split Pea and Smoked Ham Soup

Sometimes, being married means making sacrifices.

Split pea soup, to me, was a sacrifice. I don’t love smoky, heavy, grainy soups. I like light, fresh, vibrant soups. Creamy, spicy, fragrant. I love a stew.  But split pea soup…never my thang. Mushy peas, rubbery ham, too much salt. Blech.

Until, that is…I made it myself. This took awhile to make but was easy as could be. It could be made vegetarian, but I have to tell you…that ham hock broth has made me a believer.

Split Pea and Ham Soup

1 lb. split peas (or lentils of any color)

1 smoked ham hock

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 bunch carrots, roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 bunch celery, roughly chopped

8 cups stock

4-6 cups water

2 bay leaves

salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning to taste

1 glug balsamic vinegar

1 cup milk

IMG_2190 1. Toss the veggies into a large stock pot with the oil over high heat. Sautee for about 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are fragrant and the onions are translucent but there is no browning and nothing is softened. I put shrooms in here, but only because they were about to go bad. I don’t think that they are necessary.  IMG_2191 This is a ham hock. This good Jew hadn’t ever seen one up close before, much less cooked with it. I did a little online research and it seemed like any osso buco or short rib to me. Basically, boil it for hours into oblivion.  IMG_2193 2. Toss in the water, stock, herbs, and seasonings, and let that thing boil, covered, for between 2 and 3 hours You know that it’s done when the ham meat falls off of the bone easily. Keep it at a medium-low simmer so it doesn’t boil over. The house…the house is gonna smell goooood.

IMG_2201 3. When the ham hock is really soft, with the skin falling away, strain out all of the solids and return the broth to the pot. Add the lentils and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the soup is thick and the lentils are soft.  IMG_2206 4. Taste for seasonings, add the balsamic and the milk, and then taste for seasonings again.   IMG_2210 5. Shred the the meat away from the fat and skin and fold it into the soup.  IMG_2216 6. Serve (if you are like us) with Greek yogurt and a little hot sauce.

Okay, I have seen the light – this is the way that split pea soup should taste. Creamy, comforting, and deeply layered with flavor and sweetness. The pork stock is unlike any I have ever made – it tastes almost like rich tonkatsu broth. It’s so filled with body and round with fat and flavor. It isn’t smoky, just savory and earthy. The milk rounds out the edges and the balsamic adds a fresh, tart edge. This was perfect with a Caesar salad.

Sometimes marriage is about making sacrifices…and sometimes it’s about learning that those sacrifices are actually awesome, delicious bowls of soup.

Happy Lunar New Year! Let’s Eat Shrimp Toast!

Happy Lunar New Year!

In honor of this important day in some of my most favorite food cultures, I’m posting one of my all time favorite recipes.

Well, I’m RE-posting it.

Because who the hell was reading here in 2011, after all?

Shrimp Toast Recipe


INGREDIENTS:
1/2 lbs. shrimp, cleaned and de-veined
1/2 loaf white bread (stale or lightly toasted)
1/2 onion, chopped into large chunks
1 clove garlic
1 small piece ginger, peeled
4 cups vegetable or peanut oil
1 egg white (don’t forget how to separate the eggs)
1 cup cilantro, cleaned
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. lime zest

 1. Cut off crusts of bread.

2. Cut bread slices into triangles. Set aside.

 3. Throw the onions, garlic, ginger…

cilantro, and shrimp into the food processor.
4. Pulse until it is a pretty smooth paste
5. Add soy sauce, lime zest, and
egg white.

 6. Spread mixture on bread in about 1/8 inch thickness.

 7. Place bread on spatula, shrimp side down.

 8. Slide bread into boiling oil CAREFULLY (it will splatter if you drop it from too high).

 9. Cook 2 minutes per side, or until lightly golden, then drain on paper towel.

10. Eat this golden piece of toast. Topped with a springy, firm layer of sweet and salty shrimp, laced with the heat of ginger, the fragrance of cilantro and the zing of garlic, this is might be my new favorite way to eat shrimp. I like mine with a dipping sauce made of 1/2 soy, 1/2 rice wine vinegar and a few diced Serrano chiles, but you might like yours plain. Or you might like yours with a spritz of lime and a few water chestnuts.  And if you don’t like yours…
send them to me.
And I’m sorry you have no taste buds. 

Classic Patty Melts

I wasn’t going to post this recipe, because I figured that everyone knew how to make it, but then my girlfriend asked me “what’s a patty melt?” Sacre bleu! This is perhaps my all time favorite burger iteration, and everyone should know how to make it at home. In case of a snowstorm.

Or a faux-storm.

Be sure to get that 80/20 fat ratio going on and don’t let your burgers overcook (I kind of did and I couldn’t be more annoyed about it).

Patty Melts

1 lb. ground beef

1 onions and 1 cup mushrooms, sliced

butter and oil, in which to sautee

Worcestershire sauce

steak sauce

mayonnaise

mustard

rye bread

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1. Sautee the onions and mushrooms in a little butter nd oil. Sautee them slowly ,over medium low heat. This is going to take about 30 minutes and it’s worth it – you don’t want fried onions. You want sweet, caramelized onions. The mushrooms just get better and juicier as you go – don’t forget the salt and pepper!

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2. Season the meat with the Worcestershire sauce and steak sauce. I use a sauce that has a good kick of horseradish, because I don’t like a ton of condiments actually on the burger itself.

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3. Remove the onions and add 4 VERY GENTLY formed patties. Then, I cover the pan with a lid and walk away for maybe 5 minutes for a rare burger, 7 minutes for a medium rare one. I steam them because I love a patty that is jut too loose to flip and the juicy, steamed texture.

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4. Add the cheese to the top of the burger when it’s about a minute away from being done and watch it melt. Awww yeah.

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5. Assemble on the bread with mayo, mustard, and relish if you have it (we didn’t).

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6. Eat with potato chips.

The patty melt is so perfect that it doesn’t need condiments or a fancy side dish. It’s all about the crunchy bread, the juicy meat, the tangy cheese, and the sweet onions. I added mushrooms but they aren’t necessary. The Worcestershire sauce certainly is necessary, and I love the kick of steak sauce mixed into the patty. Since I steam this burger, the patty is soft and juicy. The crunch comes through in the rye toast – it has to be rye! And no ketchup! And don’t skimp on the mayo! I know, I know – lots of rules with this burger.

In this case, rules weren’t meant to be broken – they were meant to be devoured.

Low-Fat Cheesy Broccoli Cauliflower Soup

I don’t really know how to write this post.

You see…this is a recipe that I thought was okay, at best. Not memorable and not really blogable.

BUT…

Every person except for me has loved the final outcome. I have gotten more raves on it htan on anything in recent memory. So…I mean, I have to share it, right?

Broccoli Cauliflower Cheese Soup

Ingredients:

1 lb. mixed cauliflower and broccoli

1 onion, 3 carrots, and 2 cloves garlic, diced

2 tbsp. butter

4-6 cups vegetable stock

2.5 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/3 cup whole milk

3 tbsp. salt or to taste

pepper to taste

balsamic vinegar, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce to taste

IMG_2032 1. Sautee the onion, garlic, and butter over medium high heat in a large pot for about 10 minutes, or until the onion has softened and the garlic is just starting to turn golden.  IMG_2059 2. Add the stock, the rest of the veggies, and the salt, and cover. Cook for 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, verging on mushy.  IMG_2060 3. Puree and add the pepper, Tabasco, and balsamic vinegar. Taste for seasonings.  IMG_2066 4. Add the milk and cheese and turn off the heat. Stir until the cheese melts – it should melt quite quickly.  IMG_2067 5. Taste for seasonings.  IMG_2071 6. Serve with Greek yogurt and  (optional) jalapenos.

My husband, my friends, and some co-workers went GA-GA over this the day after it was made. I found it gritty, they found it pleasing. I found it one note, they found it comforting. I found it muted in flavor, they found it subtle and balanced. I don’t know what to tell you…they just LOVED this. Everyone has…mine is the only dissenting voice.

I’m dying for you to make this and tell me what you think!

Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Squash

This is less of a recipe and more of a tutorial.

It’s how you cook spaghetti squash. It’s pretty quick and made with stuff you already have in your pantry and fridge.

It does NOT taste like spaghetti – whoever said that should be shot. That’s like saying that mayonnaise and marshmallow creme taste the same because they look alike.

Come ON, people.

Anyway, this recipe is good for meatless Monday. It’s filling, it’s cheap, and if you use really great sauce, it’s pretty satisfying, too.

Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Squash

spaghetti squash parmesan Ingredients:

1 large spaghetti squash

1.5 jars your favorite pasta sauce (I sautee some mushrooms quickly and add those, some sriracha, and a little dried basil to my favorite jarred sauce)

1 ball low moisture mozzarella (regular is also okay, but make sure it’s fresh and high quality)

IMG_1921 1. Cut the squash in half lengthwise (use a heavy duty knife – it’s a hard shell!) and scoop the seeds and strings out of the cavity and discard. Then, place shell side up in a microwave safe pan, with a wee bit of water in the bottom. Microwave for 12 minutes and wait for the squash to be cool enough to handle.  IMG_1929 2. Take the fork and scrape it against the inside of the squash – the flesh magically separates into noodle-like strands. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Now, let’s layer! IMG_1944 3. Sauce… IMG_1946 squash… IMG_1950 mozz… IMG_1953 repeat. I finish with an extra layer of sauce, but you do whatever works best for you.  IMG_1956 4. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted, golden, and bubbling. There will be a ton of extra liquid, but much of it will thicken as it cools to an edible temperature.  IMG_1964 5. Serve over greens for an extra dose of roughage.

Like I said, this is a technique, not a recipe. It’s just jarred sauce, fresh cheese, and squash that you can keep on your counter for a week till you need it. It’s super filling and an easy way to go meatless – because if you are adding meat, just go whole hog and use actual noodles, ya know? This is one of my husband’s favorite healthy meals, and I have to say that as long as you are expecting the bouncy, snappy, earthy taste and texture of squash, it will be one of yours, too.

Spicy Baked Kale and Artichoke Dip

Happy New Year! I hope that you are ready to eat some KALE!

Don’t worry…this kale is loaded with cheese, cream, and hot sauce.

Basically, I made a fabulous kale salad for dinner the other night – don’t worry, I’ll blog it! Anyway, no one ever eats THAT much kale, and my remnants usually go into a frittata or waste away in the fridge. But after NYE, we had some cheese left over.

Like, a TON of cheese.

And some artichokes.

And I was feeling blue that the holidays are over and just felt like being fatty and indulgent. I used bacon fat in this recipe, riffing off of this one, but butter works just as well. You could certainly throw some ground sausage in here, as well as olives, roasted red peppers, etc. The sky’s the limit – all that you need to do is use up the random ingredients in your fridge.

Oh, and don’t plan on wearing a bathing suit the next day. Because this goes straight to your love handles. It’s okay, those resolutions can start tomorrow.

Spicy Baked Kale and Artichoke Dip

hot kale dip Ingredients:

3-4 cups washed, dried, and cut kale

1 tbsp. butter or bacon fat

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic

1 serrano pepper, diced

2 cans of artichoke hearts or crowns

1.5 packages of cream cheese (assorted varieties are fine – I had leftover veggie and scallion, but use whatever works best for you)

salt and pepper to taste

Tabasco sauce to taste (about 8 dashes for spicy but not painful)

1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar and Asiago, but fontina and Parmesan would also be fabulous)

20150101_172351 1. Saute the onion and garlic over medium heat with the fat of your choice for about 15 minutes, or until the veggies are softened and translucent. You could let these go for even longer on a slower heat if you are patient. Obviously, I’m not – the point here is to get the alliums soft and remove their bite.  20150101_172804 2. Add the kale and cover. Reduce the heat slightly and let cook for about 10 minutes. When you remove the lid, the kale should be quite soft and the scent should be damned near intoxicating – especially if you use bacon fat. Wow.  20150101_174059 3. Add all of the ingredients except half of the shredded cheese into a baking dish and mix well. Really incorporate those veggies into that cream cheese and mayo mixture. Preheat the oven to 350F. 20150101_174331 4. Add the rest of the cheese to the top, and bake for 35 minutes or until the cheese is melted, brown, bubbly, and every other type of delicious word that you can imagine.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXtDB1hl640&feature=youtu.be

Click here ^ to hear the sound of delicious. 

That’s what it should sound like (minus your husband on the phone in the background.)

20150101_185751 5. Eat with tortilla chips, celery stalks, and spoons. 
20150101_185811 But mostly just tortilla chips. Maybe very thick potato chips – they need to be able to stand up to this rather thick, substantial dish.
20150101_185819 This is just so indulgent. Creamy, cheesy, and just on the border of bieng too rich. Velvety artichoke hearts, zesty Serrano peppers, and that wonderful bacony kale. This recipe is great for kale that is perhaps JUST past its prime. After all, you don’t want the kale to be too crunchy – you want it nice and soft. It’s reminiscent of  cheesy garlic bread, but even better. The kale really does add a meaty, minerally content that cheesy garlic bread lacks. Bring this to a party and you will be the most popular kid there.

Of course, make it at home and eat the whole pan and you will hate yourself.

Like I said, resolutions can start tomorrow.

Chinese Chicken Salad

Chinese chicken salad is SO under-represented on the east coast.

I don’t know why that is. Is it because Wolfgang Puck, creator of the world’s finest Chinese chicken salad, focused on the west coast in is heyday? Is it because NYC focuses more on dim sum and miso cod and less on the light food that you need on the incredibly hot, often arid weather on the west coast?

I don’t know and I don’t care.

Bottom line: I need Chinese chicken salad in my life. And here is what that salad needs:

-soft, moist, poached or roasted but certainly not grilled chicken

-cabbage, not lettuce

-something crunchy

-a dressing that is a little spicy, a little sweet, and incredibly tart and refreshing.

So what’s a gal to do?

Make it herself, of course.

Chinese Chicken Salad

chinese chicken salad Ingredients:

1 package shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix

1 shallot, half in large slices and half in small dices

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Enough wine or beer to barely cover the chicken in a shallow saute pan

1 cup cilantro, cleaned and chopped

1 tsp. chopped ginger

1 clove garlic, diced

pita chips or fried wontons

sesame oil

peanut oil

wasabi and mustard OR hot English/Chinese mustard

sesame seeds

hoisin sauce

rice wine vinegar

soy sauce

20141208_171918 1. Put the wine, ginger, garlic, and the sliced part of the shallot in a large, shallow saucepan. Put he chicken breasts in there, too. Set it to medium high until it simmers, then set it to medium low. Cover and check back every 3 minutes until the chicken is poached – you want to take the chicken out when it is still BARELY pink in the very center of the breast. As it cools it will continue to cook.  20141208_174018 2. While the chicken cooks, put the scallions, snow peas, and cabbage into a large bowl.  20141208_174142 3. Make the dressing. This is a ratio thing, so get ready for it:

2 parts oil: 1 part rice wine vinegar: .5 part hoisin sauce: .25 part hot mustard/mustard and wasabi combo

Everything else is negotiable. You are looking for a dressing that is light, sweet, tart, an only BARELY spicy. Don’t forget to put the diced shallot in there, too.
20141208_175706 4. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull it with 2 forks. Alternatively, you can make the chicken ahead of time and then pull it and make the salad the following day.  20141208_175903 5. Add the chicken, pita or wontons, and dressing to the salad. Make sure that the salad is well dressed – it’s the secret to what makes this so embarrassingly addictive.  20141208_180258 6. Serve – if you want, like I did, with super crispy, soy sautéed potstickers

This is what I crave…THIS is the stuff. Light, crispy, juicy, and hearty. A tiny punch of heat and whole lot of sweet and tangy. The slight bitterness of the cabbage plays off of the juicy, ginger infused chicken and the sweet snow peas. Wontons are traditional but all I had were some rather stale pita chips and – lo and behold – it totally worked! The chips soaked up the dressing and managed to stay a little crispy. And oh, that dressing…you could serve this a rubber band and people would clamor over that rubber band. The secret is the hoisin sauce – its sweet, viscous, and umami.

I’m picking up where Wolfgang puck left off – because the East coast deserves its own Chinese chicken salad.