Monday, July 16, 2012

Dress for Success

  Your salad, that is.  Salads are extremely popular in the summer months, as there is no need to heat up the kitchen to make one.  Me, personally?  I love 'em any time I can get my fork in one.  But that said, not every salad is fantastic, but a few things to keep in mind will circumvent a soggy, wilty mess.

  Perk up lettuce with cold water.  That lettuce in the crisper not quite so crisp?  Fill up your clean sink with cold water and give the leaves a soak.  It'll wake up your greens.  But...

  Dry lettuce is happy lettuce.  Make sure your lettuce is dry before making the salad.  Salad dressing sticks best to dry leaves, leaving you with a better coating with less dressing.  Excess water will also water down any dressing you add.  If you are a serious green grazer, consider investing in a salad spinner.

  Don't stash your tomatoes in the fridge.  The tomatoes will get a mushy texture that is less than appetizing.  But...

  Do consider stashing salad plates in the refrigerator.  It'll help lettuce, especially the delicate types, retain the crispness.

  Now that we can build a good proper salad, how about making some dressing?  Homemade dressings are easy, fresh, and tasty.  This one is from the Tupelo Honey Cafe, based out of Asheville, North Carolina.  The hardest part is simply waiting on the pecans to toast.  I love it on a spinach salad!

Pecan Vinaigrette
Yields 2 cups of dressing, about 16 servings

1/4 cup pecan pieces or halves
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 1/2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup canola oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

   First we're going to prep the pecans.  Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet, and roast the nuts for about 20 minutes, or until the pecans are toasted and slightly browned.  You will smell the pecans when they are ready - watch them carefully close to the end, because you can burn them.  Set them aside to cool.  Once they are cool, grind the pecans in a food processor until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs.  Empty the ground pecans into a small bowl.

  Next, to the food processor, add the vinegar, garlic, both mustards, honey, sugar, salt and pepper.  Puree the ingredients.  While the processor is running, drizzle in the canola and olive oils slowly.  Pour into a container, and stir in the ground pecans.  You can stash this in your refrigerator for up to 30 days.

Note: I put my dressing in a Mason jar.  I dump the ground nuts in the bottom, pour the dressing over it, seal and shake.  I'm all about the easy.  *winks*

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