Monday, May 16, 2016

Make a Famous Salad Dressing

Joe Marzetti introduced Americans to his now-famous dressings (from his native Italy) when he
opened his Columbus, Ohio, restaurant in 1896.

Richard Hellman, who owned a deli in New York City and had won numerous culinary awards, began bottling and selling his mayonnaise in 1912, first in wooden containers, then in glass jars. The
Hellman's Real Mayonnaise that we use today is basically the same recipe Hellman originated.

Caesar Cardini is credited with inventing Caesar salad in 1924 in Tijuana, Mexico (although there are
those who believe it was more likely invented by Giancomo Junia, an Italian chef in Chicago, around

Ranch dressing - arguably the most popular on the market today - can be traced back to the Hidden Valley Guest Ranch near Santa Barbara, California. The owners began serving the dressing in the 1950s. Guests liked it so much that Hidden Valley began producing its instant, dry mix.

Thousand Island dressing, traditionally made from diced green olives, peppers, pickles, onions and hard-boiled eggs in a mayonnaise and chili-sauce base, dates to the early 1900s. Although often credited to a chef at New York City's Waldorf Astoria Hotel, actress May Irwin actually brought the recipe to the chef there from George and Sophia LaLonde's fishing resort in Clayton, New York.

Green Goddess, made from mayonnaise, anchovies, tarragon vinegar, parsley, scallions, garlic and spices, originated at San Francisco's Palace Hotel, where George Arliss stayed while performing the play The Green Goddess.

I always try the “house’ dressing when I go to a restaurant.  I want to know what the local chef or cook has made to dress his or her salads.  Usually a vinaigrette with a special combination of herbs and a certain acid like a flavored vinegar or a local balsamic I have never been disappointed ordering house dressing.  I think it was this virtually endless array of possibilities that first got me interested in making herb mixes. My first two blends were Dill Dip and Italian Dressing – my own version of a house vinaigrette. Since that time I have developed 11 more dressings, including my own RanchBlends and a Lemon Chive Combo that can be made into three different dressings.

Some recipes for dressing cannot be easily made into a mix however, so I thought I would share a couple of those recipes with you today.

The key to blending your own world famous dressing is to use the freshest ingredients possible.  Choose freshly squeezed lemon juice over bottled and try fresh herbs over dried. The spring cuttings from the herb garden are the sweetest and most wonderful for making and herbal dressing. Choose your vinegar based on the kind of dressing you're making: red wine, champagne, rice, white wine and apple cider vinegars all have excellent flavor. Avoid using a plain white vinegar because its flavor is sharp and severe, but if you have a white vinegar infusedwith herbs (LINK) this is a perfect time to use it.  Use a light vegetable oil, like sunflower or a canola blend, or a good-quality olive oil. Typically, dressing recipes call for two to three times the amount of oil as the amount of vinegar. I like less oil, especially if using a flavored vinegar, such as a raspberry or tarragon. Experiment to suit your taste.

Dressing in a Hurry
Fast enough to put together even after dinner guests have arrived, this is great on any combination of greens.

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 sprigs fresh, chopped, stems discarded
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley or 2 sprigs fresh, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried dill or 2 sprigs fresh, chopped fine (no stems)
1 clove garlic, minced

Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, honey and mustard in a bowl until blended. Slowly pour in oil, whisking constantly. Blend in the herbs and garlic. Makes 3/4 cup.

Herbed Buttermilk Dressing

2 cups buttermilk (is best, but if you do not have it you can use 2 cups milk less 2 Tbls with either 2 Tbls white vinegar or 3 1/2  teaspoons cream of tartar)
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 sprig fresh parsley, diced
5 to 10 strands of chives, sliced thin
2 green onions, diced
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in blender and pulse blend for a few pulses. Chill before using. You can toss this with any salad.  Especially good with an abundance of vegetables. Makes 2 cups.

If you want more information on blending herb dressings and making salads they check out the book by Jim Long “The Best Dressed Salad” (Long Creek Herbs, 2006). Jim is an herb grower and lecturer who has been around longer than me and he has much information to share.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

New Garden update - starting from scratch

Man I forgot how much work starting from scratch is with a garden.  And the weather is not cooperating.

Here is the space where the raised beds are to go... Grass obviously not dead.

Here is the converted sand box.  The herbs you see were rescued from my community patches last fall after we moved.  Some were transplanted late so I worried that they might not make it.  Some did not, others are coming up well.  To my surprise it was the Lemon Balm that died.. Lemon Balm, really?  The L-shape is for the new herbs for this year.

One leaf may be lemon balm, but I am not holding my breath.

This side garden is for cutting and wild flowers, but the soil is not warm enough yet to germinate the seed, so I have not actually planted anything!

This is the rain garden, doing its job after 1 1/4 inches of rain this past weekend.  It overflowed, so hubby admits that perhaps I should have made it bigger.  He convinced me to make it only 150 square feet.  We will be expanding it soon!

I wanted to cover that sewer clean out (upper right corner of rain garden photo) and got a great pot.  However, the color did not stand out at all against the green of the hedge, so I spray painted the set of pots terra cotta (actually "Cinnamon" according to Rustoleum) and they are so much more striking from the road now!

I will post another update when I finally have some good weather and can plant something.  This weekend is the Garden Club of Villa Park Native Plant and Herb Sale, so by Monday I will have all kinds of things to put in the ground.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Relaxing Herbal Bath Mixture - Bath Recipe of the Month

Aromatherapy and Health Benefits of Certain herbs

Lemon balm: calming and soothing
Lemon peel: increases immunity from disease
Calendula: healing to skin cells, reduces inflammation and heals injured skin
Rosebuds: increase happiness with the release of endorphins; soothe irritated skin
Lavender flowers: reduce stress and relax large muscles
Chamomile: healing to skin cells
Catnip: mild sedative
Sea Salt: adds needed minerals to promote skin cell health

Relaxing Healing Herbal Bath Mix

Enjoy a relaxing bath with this fragrant mixture of dried herbs especially formulated to relax tense muscles and soothe the soul. The warm water releases the healing properties of the herbs which are then absorbed by your skin. The therapeutic effect of a relaxing bath will result in 20 minutes. Light a candle, sip a cup of herb tea and relax in a warm bath. A spa treatment right at home!

6 Tbls. lavender
6 Tbls. lemon balm
2 Tbls. Chamomile
2 Tbls. Roses
2 Tbls. lemon peel
2 Tbls. calendula
2 Tbls. catnip
2 Tbls. sea salt 

Mix herbs in container and store in a tightly lidded jar.  Makes roughly 1 ½ cups

To Use: Place one tablespoon of relaxing bath mix into a muslin bag, coffee filer or even a tea ball and close securely. Add the bag to warm tub water and infuse while tub is filling. Remove bath sachet from tub and allow to drain. Therapeutic effect of a relaxing bath will begin to be seen in about 20 minutes.

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