fenwichWhen I was a kid, I use to spend a week or two with my family at my cousin’s beach cottage at Fenwick Island, MD.  Usually my cousin Sharon, her brother Jerrold, Tata Esty and Uncle Vic would join us.  It was the perfect vacation; few chores, hot, hot weather, refreshing ocean water and tons of reading books.

We kids had one major chore: crab fishing on the lagoon outside of the cottage.  There is no great science to be a  crabber. We’d go to the local market, get some string, metal bolts for weights, chicken necks, and a big net to scoop up the crabs from the water.  It looked like a tennis racket.  Then in the still of the early morning, my brother Scott and I would tie the chicken neck to the string (with a bolt) and drop it into the lagoon.  Couple minutes later, a little tug on the line, and voila, a tasty treat for the lunch pot.  Once the chicken necks were gone, we knew we had enough crabs for lunch.

My aunt and mother would boil the crabs along with hefty dose of Old Bay Seasoning and spend the entire afternoon eating crab.  After one or two crabs, we kids had burnt lips from the seasoning, and were bored of picking out tiny pieces of crab meat from our catch, but those two ladies would go at it for hours.

At Fenwick, my mother would often make lunch, and bring it to the beach.  Wise parents know that when kids are at a beach, they forget some simple rituals, like eating.  Mommy would bring cold chicken and a various assortment of salads.  My favorite was Tuna Noodle salad which is made up of cold noodles, mayo, tuna and cucumbers.  This is cooking at its lowest form, and I could never get enough of that tuna noodle salad.

Food memories brings back our childhood;  Proust with his madeleines, me with crab fishing.  But until this weekend, I didn’t share a favorite with my family.

This weekend we had family tickets to see Mid Summer’s Night Dream at Shakespeare Santa Cruz.  Since it has been very hot (an anomaly for the central coast of California), I decided to make an assortment of easy salads especially since I didn’t want to face a hot stove.  Suddenly, I remembered my old friend, Tuna Noodle Salad, and quickly made a large container’s worth.  Would my family love Tuna Noodle with the same passion?  Was it as good as I had remembered?

The answer was “YES”, wildly across-the-board “YES”.  “Yes” like “can we make this tomorrow Mom and can you show me how to make it” “Yes”.  Home run “Yes”.

So my friends, food does bring the past closer, and those old simple recipes are as wonderful today as they were yesterday.  Try going back in your memory and see what tasty delights you can recall.

Tuna Noodle Salad

INGREDIENTS

A box of elbow noodles

Two to three cans of tuna fish

Three peeled and chopped cucumbers

1 cup of mayonnaise (I like Best Foods)

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Cook and cool the noodles

Put noodles in a large bowl

Add cucumbers, tuna, mayonnaise and seasoning

Mix well with love and refrigerate until use.

Wonderful french bistro-style vinaigrette for a soft green salad such as Boston/Bibb lettuce or mesclun.  Goes great with roasted chicken and basmati rice. Since this recipe uses walnut oil, refrigerate it after using in the SaladSuccess shaker.

INGREDIENTS

Walnut Oil

Lemon Juice – about 6 freshly squeezed lemons, remember to strain

8 ounces Roquefort cheese

Salt & pepper

Directions

Pour walnut oil up to the blue oil line

Add lemon juice

Add salt & pepper to taste

Add Roquefort cheese*

Shake vigorously in SaladSuccess shaker

Unscrew SaladSuccess top and pour enough dressing over bed of greens.

* If you want this dressing to be more flexible, shake the dressing up (with salt & pepper)  BEFORE ADDING THE ROQUEFORT, pour enough dressing to the bottom of the salad bowl and add 4 ounces of Rocquefort. Place greens in the bowl, and let the salad rest until serving time.  Then toss.  You can use the remainder of the dressing for other salads and add tarragon or chives to flavor the vinaigrette.

Adapted from The Tante Marie’s Cooking School Cookbook by Mary Risley

This sweet dressing livens up any spinach or mixed greens salad.  Add mangoes, goat or feta cheese and grilled ahi tuna for a superb meal.  You can find guava nectar at latino markets or at the international section of your food store.

INGREDIENTS

Olive Oil

Guava Nectar

Lime Juice – Approx. 3 limes

Dijon Mustard

Salt & cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS

Olive oil to the ½ blue mark

Guava nectar to the top vinegar line

Add strained lime juice

Add one spoonful of Dijon Mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Shake vigorously in SaladSuccess shaker

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Cookbook.


My daily homegrown heirloom harvest!

I never had this dressing in France.  Seems the French are nuts about vinaigrette, and when traveling in the USA, are confused about “french dressing” .  So as a kid, I never understood the term “French Dressing”.  Later I found that this is a lovely tomato base dressing that works well for any green salad.  By creating a garlic infusion base, the dressing takes on a subtle flavoring.

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil

Red wine vinegar

Tomato paste

Mustard

Sugar

Garlic – 2 cloves peeled and chopped roughly

Salt & pepper

DIRECTIONS

Olive Oil to the 2/3 orange line

Vinegar to the top orange line

Add chopped garlic

3 heaping spoonfuls of tomato paste

1 heaping spoonful of mustard

1 spoonful of sugar

Salt & pepper to taste

Shake vigorously in SaladSuccess shaker

Refrigerate this dressing

Adapted from The Woman’s Day Cookbook

bakeware_splash1Sometimes I really need Christmas, especially in August.  My lawn is brown, the tomatoes plant look sad because I’m dry farming them, and the weather is usually quite foggy until noon. It’s time for a pick-me-up gift and that’s when I head to Chefworks of Santa Cruz.

However this weekend I was lucky.  Judy Huyck, Chefworks owner and lover of sheltie dogs, ask me to demo SaladSuccess at her wonderful emporium.  Now what foodie doesn’t want to spend 4 hours in the proverbial candy shop?

And what a candy shop.  I set up my little table and display and spent time perusing the shelves.  In my perfect world, I would be getting rid of my old pitted Calphalon® pots and buying Mauviel coppers from France or All-Clad.  And those new silicon steamers.  That was my best Christmas present from my brother, and Judy has jumbo size ones that could steam my corn.  Excuse a slight detour from my thoughts, but my love for the silicon steamer is due to its cleaning features.  No more disgusting veggie or even worse, fish yuck that never comes out, no matter how many time you wash the damn thing.

There is just everything you’d ever want to cook with, in Chefworks and every little tiny gadget necessary to save time with the process and the cleaning.  I’m not even going near the tableware section, Judy would have to drag me back to my demo area, while I clutch my arms around the tablecloth display.

It was a splendid day, customers were wonderful and lit up when they heard about SaladSuccess.  I even learned a thing or two; about Chinese smokers, basting needles and what pots I should drool over for my next “Christmas”.

So if you find yourself one day, in Santa Cruz California, do stop on over and visit Chefworks.  Maybe if you are lucky you find Judy at the counter, surrounded by her two beloved shelties.

cutco-knivesI swear that there is a point to this blog entry, but excuse me if I meander a bit.  I am a French cooking snob, a kitchen elitist.  I bought my Le Creuset 7 piece set when I was 23, unemployed and living with Mom (can you believe it was on sale for $35).  Never mind that no one in New Jersey knew what Le Creuset was, I did, and I knew that a Le Creuset cocotte makes superb stews.  I’ve always purchased Sabatier, Henkels or Wusthof knives, and have the usual collection of Kitchen Aid and Cuisinart electronic cooking toys.

Keeping this in mind, a close friend of mine set me up with some kid saying I was to help him with his marketing.  It ended up being a sales call.

Now I don’t know about you, but I hate being called on for network (sorry, he called it “vector”) marketing sales, especially when it is a young, inexperienced puppy-eye kid who has never cooked in his life.  I think that his use for knives has been as a replacement for a screw driver.  But there I was, stuck to my seat for an hour, watching the clock as the kid went through methodically, slowly, tediously using a monotone delivery, his sales pitch.  Finally I told him that I would buy a knife, the salmon slicer, just to get him out of the house.  Does Puppy Eyes take the hint? Can I get him out of the house in the next five minutes?  Oh, no.  We still have pages to go.  Finally I said, “That’s it, I’ve got to get back to work NOW”.  So we did wrap up, but to add insult to injury, I was presented a bill for $100 for the precious salmon slicer knife. I need this like a hole in my head or like the hole in my wallet that Puppy Eyes created.

Days later, in spite of Puppy Eyes not properly preparing the paperwork, the knife showed up.  In a huff, I put it on my magnetic knife strip in my kitchen, vowing never to use the damn thing.

Later that week, I went to the Gourmet Show and drooled over the racks of knives.  They were all gorgeous, with stylish handles and beautifully designed.  Those knives looked nothing like mine with its ungainly plastic handle and ugly rivets.  Just forget it, Nadine, so you wasted $100.

But back to the show.  If I wasn’t such a penny-pinching cook, I’d be ripe to blow my shrunken 401K on the new lime green 12-piece Le Creuset set.  I was like a junkie in the drugstore.  If you are a cooking freak like me, do yourself a favor.  Forget that trip to Europe and go to the Gourmet Show instead.  So while I was in ecstasy, I mentioned my knife mishap to my good friend Annaliese Keller, President of Malabar Trading (world’s best teas – go there) how I was stuck with this $100 knife due to an inept puppy-eye kid. She muttered something about how that brand is easier on her hand due to its shape but I missed the rest of her review since a new glass teapot caught my eye.

Several weeks later, I was making 8 loaves of garlic bread for my daughter’s swim team party.  Since there would be a hoard of hungry kids who didn’t care if the bread came from a trendy bakery, I bought the loaves at Safeway.  The loaves were murder on my regular bread knives; crust too soft to dig in to and the insides were even softer.  Not one knife worked well; they would slip, needed 3 strokes per slice or crush the insides.  Finally in desperation, I reached for the salmon slicer.  OMG, not only did it cut, but it sliced effortlessly through the bread  in one stroke.  And my hand didn’t cramp up as usual.

So instead of eating crow, I’ll eat my old knives.  Forget the Le Creuset set; I’m saving up for a full new set of Cutco knives. I’ll even call up Puppy Eyes and really make his day.

An easy method to add pizzazz to the Classic French Vinaigrette recipe, which I always have on hand.  Sometime I use this recipe to put on potatoes, such as Yukon Golds, or little fresh fingerlings.  Toss in some seared ahi tuna, capers, hard boiled eggs, greek olive and fine slices onion and voila, food heaven.  Now get out the foccaccia or fougasse bread and pour yourself a fine wine, perfect, the total dining experience.  I’ve included the link to a killer prize-winning fougasse bread recipe from Anne Baldzikowski of Belle Farms, growers and makers of Belle Farms olive oil.

INGREDIENTS

3 buds or more of garlic – unpeeled

Classic French Vinaigrette

Finely chopped herbs for the garden such as tarragon, basil, oregano

DIRECTIONS

Cut off the stem (top part) of the garlic

Roast or grill garlic until soft

Squeeze out the soft garlic into a bowl

Add herbs

Add enough Classic French Vinagrette made in the SaladSuccess shaker so that dressing has a nice consistency

Mix well

Pour over salad

For an oriental flare, try this dressing over cucumbers, carrots, cilantro, mint, rice noodles and shrimp.  Some days I grill the shrimp, but even when I am lazy, pre-cooked shrimp from a fine fish store does the trick. This was adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days with the Naked Chef.

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil

Rice wine vinegar

Sugar

Ginger

Lemon grass (remove the outer leaves and finely chop the inner ones)

Salt & Pepper

Soy Sauce

DIRECTIONS

Olive Oil to the 2/3 orange line

Rice wine vinegar to the top orange line

3 tablespoons of sugar

2 tablespoons of soy sauce

Salt & pepper to taste

Shake vigorously in the Salad Success shaker

Pour the need amount of the dressing into the bottom of the salad bowl

Add chopped lemon grass

Let the flavors meld for 10 minutes, then add rest of the salad and toss and top off with some chopped scallions.

pouring-72One of my most favorite publications is Cook’s Illustrated, home of America’s Test Kitchen, as seen on PBS.  Cook’s Illustrated is a marvelous “can’t-live-without-it” magazine that explores the best methods to cook and bake.

In the September & October ’09 issue, writer Dawn Yanagihara explores how to make perfect vinaigrette.  There is nothing worse than throat-clearing vinaigrette and such a simple recipe can bring disaster to any salad.  Dawn’s solution was to add mayonnaise to the vinaigrette so that it will bind together for over an hour.

Her article is quite thorough in its topic.  Traditionally made vinaigrette does not bind well, since oil is oil, and vinegar is basically water.  Dawn writes about her trials and tribulations with the daunting task of making oil and vinegar bind so that the vinaigrette would “compliment the greens”.  Her best shot on the traditional whisking method made vinaigrette that separated after five to ten minutes.  Not good.

A light went on in my head.  How long does the SaladSuccess vinaigrette result stay binded?  When does the separation begin?

Tonight, just before sitting down to have dinner with the family, I made a fresh batch of vinaigrette using SaladSuccess. It was typical vinaigrette, using a decent but not outstanding olive oil and balsamic vinegar that I bought at Trader Joe’s, Grey Poupon Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.  I then poured a small amount into a small glass bowl and the whole family started watching the vinaigrette while having dinner.  It was as if the vinaigrette was the guest of honor.

Every time five minutes past, we got excited.  Suddenly, thirty minutes past, and we were still good.  An hour later, we were bored watching the bowl, and it was time to drive my mother back to her house (she has dinner with us every night).  One hour and a half later, when I returned, the vinaigrette began to separate slowly.  The separation was not discernable immediately, but I could see a slight trace of a ring of oil.  Two hours later, a slightly larger ring.

What does that mean to you?  I’ve always used infusions for the SaladSuccess shaker, such as shallots, garlic, tarragon etc, which has worked fine but if you want more flexibility with your dressings, now there is a solution.  You can make your standard SaladSuccess vinaigrette, shake, pour the necessary amount in the bottom of your salad bowl, and let it sit for 10 – 30 minutes melding with the flavors of your herbs for the day.  This way you can have chive vinaigrette on one day, shallot vinaigrette the next and still never have to worry about the vinaigrette separating!

This recipe is wonderfully versatile.  Often I will use white balsamic vinegar and not use the Dijon mustard if I want a base over a blue cheese or poppy seed topping.  Sometimes I replace the sour cream with crème fraîche for a subtle, luxurious indulgence to my palate.  Try this creamy vinaigrette with different herb & spice  garnishes such a chives, peppercorns, basil or my all time favorite, tarragon.

INGREDIENTS

Olive Oil

Red wine or balsamic vinegar

Dijon mustard

Sour cream

Salt & pepper

Herbs for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Olive oil to the blue oil line of SaladSuccess shaker

Add vinegar to the blue vinegar line

1 spoonful of Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons of sour cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Shake vigorously

Pour over garnishes