Saturday, June 25, 2016

Crack Salad Dressing Recipe: All American Vinaigrette

As we approach the 4th of July I offer up this Summer recipe special.

There are salad dressings and there are salad dressings. I mean think about all the restaurant and restaurant chain salad dressings that you have either experienced personally or have had friends rave about. Dressings that have spawned internet searches and questions to waiters and copy cat posts all over the web.

So I'm throwing my hat on the ring. This dressing is one that everyone should make. It's a definite winner with any kind of Greek salad with salty feta and kalamata olives and to be honest it's best in the "Crack Salad" I will post later.

But this dressing is just good and I've tried it in very many salads. Mixed it into mexican bean salads with Mexican cheese and added it to pasta sauce.  I've also stirred it into forbidden black rice for a delicious side dish. It's an umami bomb and when mixed with the right ingredients it becomes unstoppably good.

It's a play on a vinaigrette with an all American ingredient which takes it over the top. But no one will know it's in there. So make it, and watch the smiles spread as people taste it on your salad of choice.

All American Vinaigrette "aka Crack Dressing"

2 small shallots
1/2 cup really good sherry vinegar
2 cups picked fresh oregano ( must be fresh)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
big pinch of salt and pepper
2 cups good quality olive oil
3 heaping tablespoons or so French's Yellow Mustard ( Must be French's)

Place shallots and vinegar in a food processors and pulse till minced
Add oregano and pulse till smooth paste
add lemon juice and salt and pepper and pulse
With motor running slowly add the olive oil till combined
Add mustard 1 tablespoon at a time pulsing till the dressing is emulsified
Add mustard ( Note: You may use it all or not use it all. You might need a little more but till you can taste the oil is balanced out and the dressing is smooth and tangy tasting keep adding. You'll taste it when it's sharp and perfect but not overly mustardy. You don't want that.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Smokey Tomato Soup and Colby Grilled Cheese with Chives, Finding our yesterdays in cooking today.

There are few combinations that go together better than grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.

If I were to think about when I was a kid, there were a few meals that would come to mind as favorite things I ate. And this combo was certainly one of them. I have grand memories of sitting down to the table as a little kid at lunch on a weekend and being served a big cup or bowl of tomato soup right out of the red and white can and a grilled cheese sandwich made with white bread crisped in margarine and melty with slices of yellow American cheese oozing out of them.

 Like any comfort food memory it is inextricably tied to the time, place and mostly importantly people that I remember surrounding that food. Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches are the stuff that sweet dreams of childhood are made of. So whenever I eat them no matter the quality I am right back at that round kitchen table with my mother, grandmother Irene, father and brother having lunch and laughing talking and sharing. A food memory, a family memory, a lovely happy moment in time captured in one mouthful of the simplest of foods.

In the forthcoming book I am writing, "Foraging Memory", I explore this phenomenon of comfort food, home and history.  Personal food heritage and it's role in our understanding ourselves and our place in the world.

Although today I make a version of these humble dishes that far exceeds the culinary roots of the my recollection, originally served up from the can and the ubiquitous white bread loaf in the plastic wrapper. The taste memory remains strong and is actually the same. This soup is delicious and the paprika gives it a really round smokey flavor. The chives added to the grilled cheese seems silly but the slight onion flavor really takes the sandwich to another level, truly delicious.

Please enjoy these recipes on a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon with your loved ones or dear friends. It is a delicious combo many of us might recall with joy. The joy of happy afternoons spent in the company of loved ones and of a time when we were still making the memories that inspire us today.  

Smokey Tomato Soup
( makes 6 to 8 servings )

1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup dry white wine ( or vermouth )
6 gloves of garlic finely chopped
4 cups good chicken stock, I like stock not broth
3 carrots grated
3 stalks of celery finely diced
2 large white onions chopped
1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves finely chopped
1/2  teaspoon dried Italian seasonings
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1/4 teaspoon or more to taste smoked paprika
3 (28 ounce) cans of Italian Roma peeled tomatoes
1 pint of cream
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine melted butter, onions, carrots, garlic and dried spices in a large pot with the olive oil salt and pepper cook vegetables down till they are soft. Add white wine and let simmer till cooked into the mix.
Add Tomatoes and the red pepper flakes, basil leaves and the stock.
Stir mixture and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer uncovered stirring occasionally for about 40 mins.
Take soup in batches and blend till smooth in blender in batches or use an immersion blender
Return soup to pot and heat up and season to taste with salt and pepper.
At this point you can add the cream or not depending on your taste and heat through.
Divide and serve in large bowls garnish with chopped parsley or more basil

Colby Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Dill Pickles (Makes 4 sandwiches)

Eight slices of good quality thick white bread, sour dough or pullman loaf
12 slices of Colby Jack or Colby cheese
1 small bunch chives finely chopped
20 or so slices of good quality hamburger dill pickles
dijon mustard
butter at room temperature


Heat oven to 350 degrees
Very generously butter each slice of bread wall to wall on one side then spread very thin layer of Mayo (this keeps it from burning) and place butter side down on a sheet of wax paper
Heat a skillet to medium heat
Mix a few tablespoons of mayonnaise with the dijon and spread on all slices of the bread
Divide the cheese between the slices of bread
Place the buttered bread 2 at a time in the skillet and cook till each piece is toasted golden and the cheese starts to melt then add a big dallop of the chives blanketing both sides of the bread and cheese
When done hold to the side repeat till all slices are toasted and buttery warm
Put sandwiches together
On a clear baking sheet place the sandwiches and lightly press down with the spatula
Place the sandwiches in the oven and heat for about 10 to 15 mins till the cheese is melted and heated through
Remove from the oven and let stand for about 3 mins. Slice in half and serve with dill pickle chips and the soup.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Summer Roasted Tomato Risotto

I love risotto and of all the types out there tomato risotto is one of my favorites. It holds a special place in my heart because of a dear friend and roommate who introduced me to making it.

Now risotto if often thought of a a winter dish and I agree that it can be just that. All the warming and rich things that one loves to eat during the cold season. However if prepared with a lighter touch it can be a very hearty seasonal dish that can be enjoyed all year long.

This risotto has a light tomato flavor and is a delicious meal in itself with a salad and some good bread and olive oil.

So give it a try for your next meatless Monday and see how easy it is to make Summer tomatoes sing Italian.

Summer Roasted Tomato Risotto

To Make you will need:

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion finely diced
5 cloves of garlic minced
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice
20 small campari style tomatoes on the vine.
1 large ripe tomato diced very fine with seeds and juice
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine or vermouth ( I think vermouth and tomatoes are a wonderful combo)
4 to 6 cups warm chicken broth ( can use veggie )
3 tablespoons cream cheese
1 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup shaved parmesan reserved for garnish
1 1/2 cups grated aged gouda (such as Old Amsterdam)
1 cups grated sharp aged cheddar cheese
Salt and ground pepper
3 tablespoons butter
Big Fat finishing olive oil on hand
Maldon Sea salt flakes


In a 350 degree oven roast tomatoes tossed with a little olive oil and sea salt for about 45 mins
Cook onion in oil in a large pan till translucent then add garlic
Cook till garlic blooms
Add rice and cook for about 3 to  4mins. or till the rice is beginning to toast slightly in the oil and is well covered add salt and pepper
Add dried herbs and diced tomatoes and tomato paste cook another minute
Add 1 cup dry vermouth wine cook till absorbed
Slowly add stock about a cup at a time stirring until the risotto is thick and the liquid is completely absorbed then add more broth until all broth is used up or the risotto is just al dente ( slightly chewy)
Remove the tomatoes from the oven and let sit a few minutes. Then very carefully cut the tomatoes from the stems and let fall into the pot. Pour any oil and excess juice from the baking sheet into the pot;
Keep 4 sets of three tomatoes to use as garnish on the side
Then using your spoon crush the tomatoes into your risotto
At this point add the parsley
Add butter stirring vigorously. remove from the heat and add all cheeses and stir.
When creamy add a touch of finishing oil and divide among 4 to 6 bowls depending.
Garnish with Maldon salt and the remaining cheese
Serve right away!