fennelLast Sunday was my birthday, and in view of the current economy I decided that from now on, gifts have to be made, not bought.  After all, we have so much already; a nice house, two working cars, lots of love, good health and happiness.  What did I need more?  Part of the deal was that we wouldn’t go out and buy a cake from a local patisserie.

It was a lovely evening.  My eldest daughter gave me vouchers for house cleaning, car washing, and gardening.  My youngest gave me an oil painting that she had done at school.  And I made a wonderful Key Lime Pie with graham cracker crust.

I’ve seem other good signs of the recession, friends returning to making their own preserves, others into canning or jarring fruits and life seems to have slowed down a bit.  What with the push on “green”, slow cooking, shopping locally, and buying directly from the source such as Farmers Markets, and community supported agriculture (CSA), people seem to be more aware of what they are putting in their mouths and those of their families.  Plus everything tastes better.

When my family and I went to France, my husband was stunned about the quality and variety of produce being sold.  He knew that the bakeries were famous for their breads, and the patisseries for the fine desserts, but the same care was giving toward the farming of fruits and vegetables.  Each farmer and his wife stood behind their display of incredible produce explain why their product was superior.  Every time we would run into an open market, we would fill the back of our car with their bountiful harvest. For breakfast and lunch we would savor our purchases, for dinner we would test the French cuisine.  Adding flavor and cutting costs was what it was all about.

That’s why I started SaladSuccess TM, a method to make perfect home-made vinaigrette and salad dressing.  Like in Europe, where money and resources have always tight, we are stretch financially but also with our available time.  But with a few tools, a little more time in the garden and at local markets, we can ease through this period and come out with a new understanding of family, friends and community.

close-up-layout-72Remember, a lunch salad with vinaigrette made fresh out of  SaladSuccess shaker will help you eat better and feel great.   SaladSuccess is just $9.95 and gives you perfect vinaigrette and salad dressings every day with no fuss.

This is a delicate sweet dressing, wonderful on shrimp, cucumbers and greens.  If I’m using cucumbers, I like to sweat them in salt for an hour before rinsing them.  The cucumbers get soft, and are easier to digest.  For the garlic oil, I make an infusion, which is a lovely word meaning that you peel and cut garlic cloves, and put them a jar or a SaladSuccess bottle so that the garlic can flavor the oil.  Needs to sit for a day before using.

Ingredients

Coconut milk – I prefer light

Yogurt  – I use low fat

2 limes

2 large spoonfuls of Garlic Oil

1 spoonful of fish sauce*

1 spoonful brown sugar

Dash of cayenne pepper

Directions

Coconut milk to the 2/3 orange line

Yogurt to the top orange line

Add juice of 2 limes, garlic oil, fish sauce, brown sugar, and cayenne

Shake vigorously

*Optional:  Fish sauce can be found in Asian markets and is LOADED with salt.  Avoid if one is on a salt-restricted diet.

Suzanne likes to eat this with naan, a Persian-Indian bread. I like it on top of a bed of spinach with mangos and jicama for crunch.  Also tossing some mint or toasted almonds on the salad would be wonderful. To turn it into a meal, add grilled chicken, tofu or shrimp.

Ingredients

coconut milk – I prefer light

yogurt  – I use low fat

2 limes

Spoonful of soy sauce

½ Spoonful of curry powder

Dash of cayenne pepper

Directions

Coconut milk to the 2/3 orange line

Yogurt to the top orange line

Add juice of 2 limes, soy sauce, curry powder and cayenne

Shake vigorously

Adapted from Recipezaar, Pink Cherry Blossom,  November 19, 2006

basilEver look down into your salad and wonder what are those little black things floating in your salad dressing?  Usually it is dry herbs, which don’t taste anything like the real thing, fresh herbs.  For the most part, I dislike dry herbs and today, if you have a garden or even just a window sill, you can have fresh herbs all year long.

One of my favorite herbs, this time of year, is basil.  My kids and I buy several bunches of fresh basil and make enough pesto to last the year.  If you want to make pesto, Ina Garten of the Barefoot Contessa, has a wonderful recipe, and so do most cookbooks.  My daughter, who reads price tags, really loves to make pesto since a small jar from the grocery store of this wonderful condiment costs around $8.  I’ll also take a bunch of the basil that was harvested early in the day that still has its roots, and put it in a vase of water.  Basil easily resets its roots (you’ll need to initially give the roots a little trim to stimulate growth) and you’ll have fresh basil all summer long from a dollar’s worth.

With chiles, garlic, rosemary and tarragon, I make oil infusions, which gives the taste and perfume smell of these herbs and veggies, but not the overbearing flavors.  I also use herbs for flavored vinegars.  It’s fun and economical to make these items, and adds to the complexity of your salad dressings and meals.

So for your salads and meals, don’t reach for that old jar of dried herbs sitting in your spice rack.  Instead take a stroll in your garden, cut some fresh herbs, and enjoy a truly creative and delight meal.

close-up-layout-721Remember, a  lunch salad with vinaigrette made fresh out of  SaladSuccess shaker will help you eat better and feel great.  SaladSuccess is just $9.95 and gives you perfect vinaigrette and salad dressings every day with no fuss.

Surprise, a salad that doesn’t need a dressing.  Or really a recipe.  And if you use a low-fat cottage cheese, you can even lose weight eating this wonderful combination.  Filling, cool and delightful especially if the ingredients come from your garden.

Slice about 6 radishes

Chop 1/2 orange, red or yellow pepper (I don’t like the green ones)

Chop 1/2 cucumber

Chop 2 scallions

1 cup of cottage cheese – I like the no-fat Trader Joe’s and the Nordic brands

Salt & Pepper to taste

Mix the ingredients and serve immediately.

Sorry, not every salad needs vinaigrette or the SaladSuccess Vinaigrette Shaker.

The night before perparing this wonderful salad, I make an infusion of garlic in my olive oil.  Using a SaladSuccess bottle, I fill it near to the top and drop in a peeled bud of rough chopped garlic.

Ingredients

Infused garlic olive oil

White wine or white balsamic vinegar

Juice of two lemons

2 hard-boiled or 3 minute coddled eggs*

Dried Mustard or Dijon Mustard

Salt

Pepper

Tabasco Sauce

1 half tube of anchovy paste

½ cup of grated Parmesan Cheese

Toasted croutons

Romaine lettuce in bite size pieces

Directions

Olive oil to the oil line

White vinegar to the vinegar line

Juice of two lemons

1 Tsp of dry mustard or Dijon mustard

Egg yokes – Optional (See paragraph below)

½ tube of anchovy paste

2 pinches of salt

1 pinch of pepper

A dash or two of Tabasco sauce

Shake aggressively

Caesar salad is traditionally made with a 3 minute coddled eggs.  If you are comfortable with your egg source or can buy pasteurized eggs, add the yolks to the dressing mixture.  If you are uncertain, hard boil the eggs, and serve them sliced on top of the lettuce along with the parmesan cheese and croutons, then pour over the dressing.  I like to use Reggiano, but sometimes have been known to use less expensive parmesan.

garlicI absolutely adore cooking with garlic.  What I don’t love about garlic is eating it raw.  For me, it is much too strong of a taste and what it does to one’s breathe should be illegal.  So for my salads, I use a garlic infusion which takes minutes to prep, and has a wonderful soft garlic flavor.  Just peel all the cloves in a bud of garlic (skip those teensy cloves), give the cloves a rough chop, fill a container or a SaladSuccess bottle with a lovely olive oil, and put in the chopped garlic.  If you are in the least worried about any bacteria issues with garlic or any herb, blanch the garlic for a minute before chopping.  Usually after having the infustion for four days, I take out the herbs and garlic.

Sometimes, for camping, I’ll get ready a SaladSuccess shaker just to hold an herbal infusion of olive oil, rosemary, tarragon and garlic.  It adds a wonderful gourmet touch to the campfire when frying trout and potatoes.  I also love having it around for tomato salads, and to rub into steaks before they go on the grill.

Although garlic is available all year round, the bulb gets dug up in the summer.  Some garlic bulbs are exceedingly mild in taste, such as Chet’s Italian Red and Red Toch (both Artichokes garlic bulbs that are often grown commercially). Some are medium flavored like Inchelium Red (another Artichoke) or Burgundy (a Creole ) while others are very hot and strong, such as Metechi (a marbled Purple Stripe) or Chinese Purple (Asiatic).  You can get the more exotic garlic bulbs in fine food stores or at your neighborhood farmers market.  Try them all, and see which ones you love.

close-up-layout-722Remember, a  lunch salad with vinaigrette made fresh out of  SaladSuccess shaker will help you eat better and feel great.  SaladSuccess is just $9.95 and gives you perfect vinaigrette and salad dressings every day with no fuss.