Monday, June 20, 2011

Cobb salad with Home made Ranch Dressing

In the continuing spirit of not turning on the stove  if at all possible, we have been eating lots of salads at this house.  Cool, refreshing, it's an uncomplicated dinner that everyone can customize just how they like which means - no complaining.  The only problem is, salad can be kind of wimpy.  A handful of microgreens, gently drizzled with  fat-free vinaigrette would not get real far in this house, especially when salad is the main course. I pile on  lots of protein rich goodies for a dinner that sticks to the ribs, but also packs  plenty of veggie servings.

Which brings me to, the salad dressing.  Dressing of choice at this house is good old American ranch.  Oh we do plenty of oil and vinegar combinations, but the ubiquitous  green and white bottle is something that gets pulled out quite often.  I decided the other day, that there had to be an other alternative.  Something fresher, tastier.   Ranch dressing was originally developed in the fifties at an actual dude ranch.  Tourists came to ride horses, but came home raving about the salads they were served with this unique home made dressing.  The ranch owners started selling the dressing, and eventually sold their brand to a major food manufacture. The big food guys, put their crack team of scientists on the job and they figured out how make a dressing that can sit on your shelf for half a year.  Hmmm, I'm guessing the original recipe never included calcium disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetate.

What I came up with was a combination of fresh herbs and garlic, blended together with buttermilk and a little mayonnaise.  Light and flavorful, it is the perfect topping to a salad, or a dip for fresh veggies. I have a feeling we'll be making this all summer long. 

Ranch dressing:
1/2 cup of buttermilk
1/2 cup of mayonaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 garlic clove
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1-2 dashes of worchestershire sauce
2 tsp minced fresh parsley
1 tsp minced fresh dill
1 tsp minced fresh basil

Combine buttermilk, mayo and sour cream.  You can use the low fat version, if you like.  Finely chop garlic.  You will look at that measly little 1/2 clove and think you need to add more, but don't!  The garlic gets stronger as it sits.  Sprinkle the salt over the garlic.  Use your knife or a fork to chop the salt into the garlic, until you kind of get a paste going.

  Dump garlic into the buttermilk mixture.  Mince up herbs very finely and wisk those in. Or do what I did and dump everything into a jar, and shake well.  Add Worcestershire and onion powder.  Taste for seasoning.  Does it need a little salt?  Maybe an extra dash of Worcestershire? Chill for a couple of hours and serve.

This is a basic dressing that you can vary so many ways. Don't have fresh herbs on hand?  Try it with dried.  Don't like dill? Leave it out.  Have a lemon half you don't know what to do with?  Squeeze it in there.

Cobb salad ingredients that we like:
  • Start with a  bed of mixed romaine and iceberg lettuce.  This salad needs a good, sturdy crunchy lettuce as a base
  • Tomatoes
  • Avacados
  • Bacon
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Cucumbers
  • Grilled chicken 
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
Now go forth!  And get your salad on.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Watermelon Popsicles

Yeah, I'm still hung up on this business of staying cool.  Today, the husband and I spent the morning in our garden, which sounds delightfully old-fashioned and romantic. Sad reality is that it was dirty, sweaty work and of course we argued over the best way to plant lima beans and zipper peas.  Who knew there could be such strong opinions about dumb old beans?? Eventually, we reached a compromise and the garden is now packed full of seeds, well watered and weeded.  Best of all, when it was all done, we cooled down with some popsicles the kids and I made a couple of days ago.

We came to the conclusion that one of the most delicious parts of summer, is biting into ice cold watermelon.  Why not take that a step further and turn watermelon into a popsicle?  This idea turned out much better then any of us imagined.  We added some lime juice for a bright burst of citrus against the sweet melon. Cold and tangy, these pops are so refreshing, we can't keep our hands off of them.

Watermelon Popsicles

5 cups cubed seedless watermelon
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberrys
Juice of one lime
6 tablespoons granulated sugar.

Puree all ingredients in blender.  Let mixture sit for a minute to dissolve sugar.  Blend a little bit more. If raspberry seeds bother you, push mixture through a sieve.  Pour into popsicle molds and freeze. 

  • swap the raspberries for blueberries
  • Add bananas 
  • Use cantaloupe or honeydew instead of watermelon

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hot and Bothered

Summer in these parts, has started off with a bang. Perhaps a better word would be blast.  Or make that wave as is HEATWAVE.  When the thermometer hovers well above 90 every day with humidity dripping from the air, frankly I can't be bothered to fuss with complicated cooking. We have been much too occupied with trips to the pool, sprinkler afternoons, slurping down icy cold watermelon, whatever we can do to stave off the heat and enjoy the freedom of summertime.

The other reason for cooking hibernation is the fact that there are three different farm stands less then 10 minutes from my house.  This time of year, they are packed with seasonal, local produce that begs to be taken home.  Food this fresh doesn't need much to make it shine. A little seasoning, the barest amount of cooking,  and dinner is done.


Green Bean, Corn and Tomato Salad

1 lb fresh green beans, topped and tailed
2 cups grape tomatoes
2 ears of corn

1 large garlic clove
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Basil or other herb (optional)

Once beans are cleaned, break them into large pieces. Drop  them into a pot of salted, boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes or until crisp-tender.  Remove from water and lay out to cool, or plunge in ice water to speed up the process.  Bring water back to a boil and add the two ears of corn.  Boil for 5-6 minutes or until barely cooked.  Remove from water and slice kernels off the ear of corn.  Slice grape tomatoes in half.

Place minced garlic in a bowl with vinegar, salt and pepper.  Wisk in olive oil.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Toss with beans, corn and tomatoes.  Finely chop basil.  Add and toss to combine.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

  • Add strips of grilled chicken for a main dish salad
  • Serve over a bed of lettuce
  • Omit corn and add crumbles of feta cheese and some bell peppers
Stay cool!