Friday, May 18, 2012

Food Transgressions

Homemade Ranch and Vinaigrette
Last weekend was a bit out of control in regard to food. It started Thursday with The Captain’s from-scratch brownies, which I’ve heard several people describe erotically. One friend whose husband is a pastry chef says they’re the best brownies she’s ever eaten. Needless to say, I ate one; yes, only one because the rest were designated for a Scout function and a fishing trip. Then on Friday my dear cousin and her family were driving up unexpectedly from the South Bay Area and we were all invited for pizza at my aunt and uncle’s, after which they offered low fat ice cream. I had two slices of pizza and about a third of a cup of ice cream and salad (not necessarily in that order).

The next morning I found myself alone with my refrigerator and the leftovers of a crazy good coconut chicken curry and basmati rice I had made two nights before. I ate the rice telling myself I’d have just one small bowl, which turned into two… with a bit of butter on each. You cannot have rice without butter. Period.

On the way home from the overnight Scouting event, The Captain stopped at Chipotle for a salad and brought one home for me as well. I usually order the vegetarian version because I don’t need the meat and its calories and saturated fat plus I like their pinto beans; besides the vegetarian one comes with guacamole so I don’t have to pay an extra $1.90 for it. However, The Captain remembered me ordering the barbacoa once so that’s what he brought home. I’m not complaining, mind you. He couldn’t get a hold of me and could have, thus, brought me nothing. I was grateful for the salad. And, as always, I can only eat half of their food because there’s so much on the plate. So, add half a barbacoa salad with brown rice, pinto beans, cheese, and lots of salsa... but no guac.

That afternoon our neighbor came down and invited us to their house for dinner and would we bring a salad and bread? No problem. I make a great salad (my brother is shaking his head and murmuring, "there she goes again complimenting her own cooking"). Loads of veggies: mixed greens, fresh herbs, tomatoes, cucumber, red bell pepper, avocado, plus feta, nuts or seeds, dried fruit… and this time I forsook my homemade vinaigrette for homemade ranch dressing (recipes below). To my credit (thank you, thank you very much), I used nonfat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream -- but full-fat mayo. Then all the dressing wouldn’t fit into the container I wanted to use so I put the rest in a wee bowl with a bit more from the container. We used it as dip for the large bag of Kettle chips we had purchased for the fishing trip, which had subsequently been canceled due to high winds and the salmon were no longer biting. The guide said he didn’t feel right about taking our money (nice, right?).

Then there’s the issue of the bread. The Captain and I went to Whole Foods but being a Saturday of a busy tourist weekend, it was slim pickins’. So we tried Trader Joe’s, which is almost next door. However, we had to stop at Pete’s Coffee on the way for a decaf iced latte (no sweetener but probably whole milk because I forgot to ask for something lighter). Nothing at TJ’s was any too inspiring either. Next and last, we went to our neighborhood gourmet grocery, Vallerga’s. We should have gone there first and had intended to but our car just drove itself over to get real in the Whole Foods parking lot. Sure enough, Vallerga’s had exactly what we were looking for. So The Captain took it home and made garlic bread -- with a whole stick of butter, many cloves of garlic, and some rosemary from the garden. I ate two pieces. Also for dinner I had a few bites of lamb, a slice of chicken breast, salad, three grilled asparagus spears, and a dozen artichoke leaves Rutherford Grill style with aioli... plus a half a cup of chocolate ice cream, not just a few of those potato chips, cucumbers, and dip, and a couple of Tecates… (over the course of about four hours – not all at one sitting, people.)

I am absolutely positive there were the odd leftover brownie, piece of dark chocolate, trail mix, handful of walnuts, and other tidbits mixed in over the weekend but who can remember all that??? Thus ended my food transgressions. I am back to sanity. However, I’ve gained two pounds for my efforts. grrr. On the upside, my laundry is done… but my kitchen floor is becoming its own ecosystem. Nice segue to --

Homemade Garlic Ranch Dressing
I really dislike store-bought salad dressings. There are very few that don't have that weird, acrid flavor, especially bottled Ranch and Blue Cheese dressings. I haven't purchased it for at least ten years because I swear I can taste the preservatives -- and they don't taste good! For many years I made the powdered Ranch which was better but then I found a recipe that had ingredients I could pronounce. They were all real food. I feel much better about being able to control what goes into our bodies and it is soooo much tastier! The original recipe is from Barefoot Bloggers but has been adapted to our taste.

The ingredients are simple and staples in many pantries.

Just blitz them all together and voila!
3/4 cup mayonnaise (you can use light mayo)

3/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt (you can use light or regular sour cream)

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1/4 to 1 cup buttermilk (I use powdered because we don’t use that much but plain milk also works)

1 small bunch fresh chives, roughly chopped

a generous handful fresh Italian parsley, no stems

1 Tbsp fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients with 1/4 cup of the buttermilk in a food processor or blender and do several long pulses. Add more buttermilk if you like it thinner (we don't). Store in an air-tight jar in the fridge.

According to the Barefoot Bloggers, leftovers will keep 2 to 3 weeks. Ours won’t last that long… because it gets eaten!

If you don’t love garlic, cut back to one small clove or skip it. Other herbs that I’m going to try are: tarragon, lemon thyme, basil, and a little rosemary. Not all at once. I’ve chosen those herbs because we have them growing in the garden with the chives and Italian parsley. I’d love to hear your ideas.

Homemade Vinaigrette
This is my adaptation of the classic French vinaigrette my friend taught me to make many, many years ago after her year in France as an exchange student. The olive oil to vinegar ratio is way off compared to the original, which is four to one, but I like this more acidic, less oily version.

Pantry staples that can whipped up for a quick, delicious dressing.

½ cup olive oil
1/3 cup champagne or red wine vinegar (or your favorite flavored vinegar)
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a mason jar or other container with a tight seal, combine vinegar, Dijon mustard, sea salt and pepper. Cover and shake well to combine. Add olive oil. Cover tightly and shake vigorously for at least one minute. Dressing can also be made using a food processor or blender using the same method above except the olive oil should be drizzled in slowly while the machine is running. Either by hand or machine, the dressing should completely combine and won’t “break” (separate). Store at room temperature.

Tip: If you choose to go by the shaken-by-hand method, it is helpful to put a dishtowel over the jar lid to prevent any potential leaks from becoming messy spills. (I speak from experience…)

A tablespoon of fresh herbs, shallots, and/or 1 teaspoon of garlic can be added to the vinegar mixture prior to adding the olive oil if you like. However, with that addition, the vinaigrette must either be completely used immediately or stored in the fridge. The olive oil gets really thick in the fridge and has to come to room temperature before it can be used. I, personally, can’t think that far in advance so I leave this step out unless it’s a special occasion. I’m more likely to add the herbs or shallots directly into the salad greens. Like the garlic idea but don’t want to put it in your dressing? Rub the cut end of a clove around the bowl. 

Comments, please. Enjoy! 

No comments:

Post a Comment