Creamy Parmesan Dressing

Dressing Ingredients Recently, I was hungry for a salad, yet again. You know the mood…truly hungry for green things. I wanted something like a Caesar. But, I was not in the mood to play with anchovies or raw eggs. Nor did I really want to resort to a bottle from the dressing aisle. Not that I’m above it, mind you. It is just that I am now aware of how easy and inexpensive it is to make all manner of dressings from pantry staples.

This dressing is not particularly novel. There are about a million versions of it online. But it bears repeating because it is tasty and fresh and takes 10 seconds to make. Change up the “spicy” factor by using more, or less, fresh garlic. In fact, start with half as much as you think you need and work your way up. Raw garlic can be very punchy.

Also, kale is an easy way to upgrade your greens. This salad has the personality of a Caesar. It mainly boasts Romaine lettuce. But I also added two or three big leaves of thinly sliced kale and tossed them with the Romaine. It really adds a nice texture to the salad. A few sliced green onions seal the deal. This is a very easy salad to pull together and I don’t think you will be disappointed. It would be phenomenal with grilled chicken. In fact, we ate this salad as a side dish for grilled chicken and I ended up eating the chicken with a bite of salad every time.  So, consider that as well.

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Grilled Yellowfin Tuna Salad

Tuna SaladLet’s just agree that you forgive me for calling a pan seared piece of fish “grilled.” I used a grill pan so it is really just pan seared with pretty lines. But, it is still hot as heck here and we are now back in the land of homework and puppy training and pan fried with pretty lines is passing my “good enough” test this week. A grill pan and a strong vent can be your friend on a week night. Go outside and grill the heck out of your fish if you have the inclination. Take a beer, as well as mosquito spray if you live around here.

This salad was originally invented and tested for use with grilled swordfish. And, truth be told, I prefer the swordfish just slightly over the tuna, but they are both fantastic. Many of you will look at this salad and say, “ah, it is a Salad Niçoise!” to which I would respond, “sort of.” It is a Salad Niçoise in all respects except those that I suspect are truly the definitional elements of that dish. I’m not an olive person. Olive oil, yes. Olives, not so much. And, I didn’t employ anchovies, either. To truly call a salad an inspiration of the South of France region for which the Niçoise Salad is named, the French Riviera city of Nice to be exact, I believe one has to pay homage to the olives and to the fact of the Mediterranean Sea. I, however, don’t want to. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. Further, you might find questions as to whether a truly Provençal dish would be laden with steamed potatoes, as mine is. I really cannot be sure. I am also too busy at the moment to keep finding the “ç” character on my word processor. It is irritating me greatly, actually. And, I’ve never been to Nice, or further in France than the admittedly impressive Charles de Gaulle airport where I was stuck for 24 hours on my way to La Tavola Marche last year. So, I will not pretend that my culinary exploits with regard to this dish are anything other than a product of Google, heavy daydreaming, and childish aversions to certain things. So there…”grilled tuna salad” it is. Onward.

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Avocado Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Avocado-Vinaigrette-Salad-Dressing

I’m serving salads left and right because it is hot outside and they are so easy to put together. I’ve been playing with this dressing for several weeks. It is very flexible and tastes lovely with an assortment of salad ingredients. I’ve made salads topped with this and roasted spicy chickpeas (thought I’m not quite finished perfecting those for you yet), red onions, and all manner of other things. My favorite combination so far is mixed spring greens, green onions, tomatoes, even more avocado cut up in chunks, and a really inappropriate amount of bacon. Next up, top that salad with grilled chicken or beef. I think that would be the perfect “dinner salad.”

This recipe is geared for one medium avocado, and so it makes enough dressing for a rather large salad. I love that it has a whole avocado in it. I’ve toyed around with avocados in dressing before by the way. I’ve shared an avocado ranch dressing on a Spring Green Salad, and a salad heavy on avocados with a honey Dijon vinaigrette. But this one is rather distinct from those. It whips up quickly in a blender and tends to stay well emulsified, which is nice. It is creamy like a mayonnaise based dressing. I suppose the avocado behaves a bit like eggs in combining with the olive oil and does make a mayonnaise of sorts. Anyway, I like it and I hope you do to. Three cheers for cold summer dinners!

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Buttermilk Ranch Dressing Mix

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing MixYou have to have a few tricks up your sleeve. You have to have some magic shortcuts in the pantry. Because you, one day, will come running around the dining room table in a mad search for someone’s swimming goggles and kick a chair with your pinkie toe and look down to find it pointing in the wrong direction. On that day you will have to call in the reinforcements to watch your children (my stalwart neighbor Linda) and help you to the ER (her fire-fighter husband Robert) to get your poor foot put back into the right configuration. These things happen.

When these things happen you will become aware of several things…

First, you will thank the heavens for good neighbors. I cannot remember a time when I have asked Linda for a favor and she hasn’t dropped everything to help me. And, Robert…well…he sat in the ER and listened to my drug induced philosophic ramblings about how cool it is that my daughter slid into home plate in her softball game last week. He is a good man. My very own man was on his way back from Tennessee where he was coaching three of his crew kids in the Nationals rowing events. That is a pretty good excuse for not pulling ER duty, I think. But, I’m so glad he is home. I’m a hobbling goofball around here. All hands are on deck.

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Broccoli Salad

Broccoli Salad LeadThis is a great summer salad. There are a million like it out there. I’ve always wanted to make a broccoli salad. I kept putting it off, thinking I needed to find the perfect recipe. In fact, I already had the bones of this recipe right under my nose. This is, for all intents and purposes, my Aunt Jane’s broccoli salad recipes. It is one of the tried and true family formulas that came pouring in when I asked my family to help me put together a family cookbook several years ago. I often thumb through it when I need a burst of inspiration. Somehow it always sends me in a good direction. It has never failed to leave me smiling, regardless of whether I cook from it that day or not. It is my grandmother’s kitchen hidden in stained, beloved pages.

I think of this as a tea room salad, or a picnic salad. It is definitely a classic, though I’ve modified it a bit from the traditional recipe. I took Jane’s recipe and played with it a bit and this is where I landed. I love it and I will be making it for ages. You should know that most substitutions here are merely ones caused by the current inventory of my pantry and freezer. For instance, Jane calls for raisins but I have dried cherries in my freezer that our friends Pat and Bubba gave us last year after returning from a trip to Michigan. Jane uses yogurt in her dressing, but I had only sour cream on hand. Most of these broccoli salad recipes call for sunflower seeds, but I had only slivered almonds. So I toasted them and called them preordained. Use what you have. But, never skip the bacon.

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