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Thursday, June 28, 2012

And the Winner of the OXO Salad Dressing Shaker Is...

Congratulations to The Southern Fried Bride for winning the OXO Salad Dressing Shaker!  Thanks, everyone, for participating this time around!  :-)

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Basics of a Vinaigrette and an OXO Salad Dressing Shaker Giveaway!

When I first moved to France, I realized that I was in trouble when it came to salads.  Yes, the grocery stores and markets had great salad ingredients.  Yes, salads were everywhere.  But at the same time, bottled salad dressings in France were terrible.  I had grown up with the bottle and couldn't figure out what to do...until I realized that I could actually make my own!  And it would be a thousand times better than the bottle!  Ever since that realization, I have (mostly) made my own salad dressings.  The great thing about the homemade version is that it has endless possibilities: herbs or none, mustard or no, tangier with more vinegar or smoother with more oil--you get to decide. 

Take the vinaigrette I made for my poached egg salad I posted about last week.  The egg yolk added a delectable creaminess to the salad, so I decided to go with a more tart version of a basic vinaigrette by adding a little more acid.  And that's something you can't do with the bottle in your fridge.

So how do you make a vinaigrette?  It's easy!  It really comes down to the ratio of oil to acid (vinegar, lemon juice, etc.) and personal flavor preferences.  The common ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid.  When you're first starting out on the path to homemade vinaigrettes, I would stick to a good extra virgin olive oil and basic vinegars.  My favorite vinegars are balsamic and red wine because they're milder, but once you get going, start playing with your acids and oils to create different flavors.

If you want your vinaigrette to remain emulsified (or all mixed up), then you'll want to add an emulsifier.  (There's a chemical explanation about how this happens, but we won't go into the details right now.)  The most common for vinaigrettes is mustard (dijon or whole-grain works great) or honey.  Salt and pepper are essential, and then the rest is up to you.  So let's get started!
  1. For a regular, family-sized salad, start by pouring about one ounce (about 1/8 cup) of your vinegar into a bowl or a handy-dandy salad dressing shaker.  Add a little salt--start with about 1/8 teaspoon--and some freshly-ground pepper.  I typically use mustard with most vinegars except for balsamic.  If you're using balsamic, mix and skip to the next step.  Other vinegars benefit from a little bit of mustard.  Add about 1/2-1 teaspoon of dijon mustard.  (For me, this is a flavor thing.  I prefer less mustard, so stick to about 1/2 teaspoon, but you might like more, so play with it!) Whisk or shake these ingredients together.
  2. Pour in about three ounces of oil (1/4 + 1/8 cup).  Extra virgin olive oil is my go-to oil, but feel free to experiment!  Whisk or shake it to combine.
  3. Now, this is the most important part...taste it!  Stick that finger in there and give it a lick.  What does it need?  More salt?  Add a little!  Some herbs?  Add some!  Too tart?  Add a little more oil!  You get the idea.  Here's where you can play with the flavors.
  4. Now pour on your salad, toss, and enjoy! (You can store your vinaigrette in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about a week.  Sometimes the oils can solidify, so if that happens, just take your vinaigrette out of the refrigerator about an hour before using it.)

Now, if you've noticed, in the pictures I have a beautiful little OXO Salad Dressing Shaker.  OXO was kind enough to send one to me to try out and another to give away to a lucky reader!  Now, typically, I use a bowl and a whisk because I'm at the point where I don't need to measure anymore, but I do use this shaker quite often as well.  I had an old Tupperware one, but the opening was too small, so whenever I used shallots or other chunkier ingredients, they always got stuck while pouring.  This shaker, though, has a great wide opening, and so far, nothing has ever gotten stuck in it.  It's also pretty leakproof--I even let my two year old "help" me cook by shaking the salad dressing, and nothing ever leaked out.  And finally, my favorite part about this is that, as opposed to my bowl and whisk method, I can make this and then easily store it in my fridge for later use.  When I use this shaker, I'll double or triple the recipe to use throughout the week.  I think the only drawback is that I taste often while making vinaigrettes, and when you twist off the lid, the dressing can run down the sides a bit.  Nothing a paper towel can't fix, though!

So, on to how to enter!  Just follow the directions below.  The first one is mandatory, but the others are optional extra entries...just don't forget to comment for each entry!
  1. Leave a comment on this post.  Feel free to share your favorite homemade salad dressing, tell me about problems you've had in the past making your own, or just tell me hi!  :-) (mandatory)
  2.  "Like" The World in My Kitchen on Facebook and come back here to let me know. (If you are already a fan, just say so in the comments below.)  (optional)
  3. Subscribe to The World in My Kitchen in an RSS feeder. (Make sure to come back here to let me know that you did this!)  (optional)
  4. Follow me on Twitter and retweet this post. (Make sure to come back here to let me know that you did this!) (optional)
  5. "Like" OXO on Facebook and come back here to let me know.  (optional)
That's a total of 5 possible entries! (Make sure to create a separate comment for each one below.) I will choose a winner with a random number generator. The giveaway will close on Wednesday, June 27th at 10:00pm EST.

**This contest is open to those with a U.S. address. 

Disclosure: This product was sent to me for review purposes. I was not required to post about it and received no compensation for doing so.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Mexican Chocolate Pudding Tart [Secret Recipe Club]

Chocolate pudding: it's something I've never made before.  Part of it is due to my aversion to making custards--cooking eggs gently scares me.  But part of it is because it just seems like a difficult dish--I've never actually seen anyone make pudding from scratch.  All of my pudding making as a kid was straight from a box, so when I was assigned Cooking in Stilettos as my Secret Recipe Club assignment, I knew her recipe for an easy Mexican Chocolate Pudding was kismet.  This eggless recipe came together in all of 10 minutes and tastes wonderful!

In her post about making this pudding, Aly mentioned a pudding pie her "Bampa" would make, and I thought to myself, "Why not?"  So I poured the pudding into a chocolate pie crust I made and topped it with homemade whipped cream.  I hope that I did her Bampa's pie justice!  I know it was a hit in our house!

Mexican Chocolate Pudding Tart
Pudding from Cooking in Stilettos

1 baked chocolate pie crust (I'm still working out some kinks with my recipe, and I'll post it as soon as I perfect it, but in the meantime, you can buy a premade one or google other recipes.)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I added a pinch more because I like the taste of it!)
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups lowfat milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (Next time I may cut this back just a touch.)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of cayenne pepper (Next time I'll put in more than a pinch!)

Whipped Cream:
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the pudding:
Whisk the brown sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt in a medium saucepan.  Whisk in the milk and almond extract.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking often.  Once the mixture begins to boil, whisk constantly for one minute.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, vanilla extract and cayenne until the butter is melted and incorporated.

To make the whipped cream:
Using a stand or hand mixer, place the cold cream in a large bowl.  Add the sugar and vanilla and whip until peaks form and you reach your desired consistency.  Don't overwhip, as you'll make butter!  :-)  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

To assemble the pie:
Pour the mixture into your pie crust.  Smooth out the top with a spatula.  (Aly's directions say to cover the surface of the pudding with plastic wrap, but I wouldn't do it next time as it left a strange imprint on my pie.)  Refrigerate for at least an hour and a half or until set.  Decorate with homemade whipped cream right before serving.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Green Salad with Poached Egg, Bacon and Champagne Vinegar and Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

The idea of the French bistro is the epitome of delicious French food.  Most people don't realize that bistro food is delicious because of its simplicity.  Take beef bourgignon: basically a beef stew cooked in red wine.  Or steak au poivre: just a good steak covered in peppercorns and grilled with some french fries.  One of my favorites, though, is the salade Lyonnaise: frisée or other salad greens with bacon and a poached egg.  It's taken me years to realize that bistro food can easily be made at home.  

And last night I finally jumped the hurdle that was stopping me from making this particular dish--the dreaded poached egg.  And you know what?  It was really quite simple!  I promise that I'll share my technique with you as soon as I can, but today I'm going to share the salad recipe with you, which is also really quite simple.  It takes only about 15 minutes to assemble, and you'll be rewarded with the crisp freshness of a salad with a tart and nutty vinaigrette, salty bacon and the rich gooeyness of a perfectly poached egg.

Paired with some crusty French bread and a glass of dry French ros
é, and you'll have a French bistro meal on your table in no time!

Green Salad with Poached Egg, Bacon and Champagne Vinegar and Walnut Oil Vinaigrette
Serves 1
Cook's Notes: You'll have plenty of vinaigrette left to dress your salads for the rest of the week.  Feel free to scale down the recipe if you don't want leftovers.

For the salad:
1-2 cups fresh salad greens
2 strips bacon, cut into 1/2" strips and cooked until crispy
1 egg, poached
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 ounce (about 1/8 cup) champagne vinegar (or a little more if you like your vinaigrettes a little more acidic, like I do)
1 ounce (about 1/8 cup) fresh lemon juice (about the juice of one lemon)
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
10 grinds of black pepper
1 clove of garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 tsp fresh dill, finely chopped
3 ounces (about 1/4 + 1/8 cup) walnut oil
3 ounces (about 1/4 + 1/8 cup) mildly flavored extra virgin olive oil (Don't use your best olive oil here...you want the walnut oil to shine in this vinaigrette.)

To make the vinaigrette:
Combine all of the ingredients in your salad dressing shaker and shake until combined.  (Alternatively, you can whisk the ingredients in a small bowl.)  Taste and add more salt, vinegar or oil until it reaches your desired taste.  Let it sit on the counter for about 15 minutes (which should be about the time it takes to crisp your bacon and poach your egg).

To assemble the salad:
Place the greens in a wide-mouthed bowl.  Toss with enough dressing to coat.  Sprinkle with the bacon bits.  Add the poached egg and sprinkle with a little sea salt and pepper.  Eat immediately.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How to Freeze Herbs

I know I talk about my CSA nonstop during the summer, but hey, I love fresh produce!  I often get a lot of herbs every week, and sometimes I just can't use them up before they go bad.  Is it the same for you?  If so, freezing will be your best friend!  I freeze my herbs almost every week, and then use them throughout the following months.  It's best to preserve less woody herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill, basil, mint, etc. through freezing rather than drying.  The more woody herbs, although can be frozen, are sometimes best dried.

Some people like to freeze their herbs in little ice cube trays, but I think it's a pain.  First of all, I don't have any ice cube trays because thankfully I have an automatic ice cube maker.  Secondly, I find that freezing your herbs in water in a tray limits your uses for the herb.  Yes, you can throw an herby ice cube into a soup, but that's about it.  If you freeze using my method, you can just cut off frozen bits to use in cooking, but also in salads and other uncooked foods.  (This works great with dill in potato salads.)

So, let's get to it!  First you need to wash your herbs gently in cold water and leave them to dry on a paper towel.  Once they're dry, chop them roughly and put them into a freezer bag.  (I prefer Ziploc's Vacuum bags.)

Make sure to label your herbs!  After a few weeks in the freezer, the cilantro and parsley will look suspiciously alike.  Remove as much air as possible and freeze.  Whenever you need some, break off a chunk and add it to your recipe.  Some herbs' flavors will last longer than others, so storage time will vary.  I've found that cilantro only lasts a few months, but dill can last up to a year.

That's all there is to it!  How do you like to preserve your herbs?

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