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Olive Greek Salad Dressing

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Cooks always start by mastering the Garde Manger station, our home kitchen is no exception. I started my son, Young Fresh Chef, on salads and appetizers. My mother, Momette, has always made salad dressings from scratch and I’ve continued the tradition. Years ago, when I was making a vinaigrette with my son, he couldn’t have been any older than 6, he asked why I didn’t add some of the olive juice from the bottle of Kalamata olives that I was using from the salad. I’d never considered adding the brine as an acidic element, so I splashed some into the dressing and it was fantastic!

Olive Salad Dressing Ingredients

Later, when we told his dad, Exec Chef about our latest creation there was a glint in his eye that a new menu item was about to appear at his restaurant. It was the first time that our son had inspired a dish and he was as proud as physically possible to be a part of the creative process.

Lately, I’ve been trying to healthify (this is now a word) our food at home and one way is by cooking with fats from whole foods (nuts, seeds, avocados, etc) rather than using extracted fats (butter, oil, shortening, etc). When trying to make a new type of salad dressing, I thought back to the flavours that I loved to put together and, of course, I thought of the olive juice salad dressing. Why not use whole olives instead of olive oil?

I decided to go with a Greek flavour profile, based around Kalamata olives. So, I threw together some fresh squeezed lemon juice, Dijon mustard, a bit of feta cheese, some Kalamata olives, salt and pepper in a little jar and blended it together with my immersion blender.

Blended Olive Salad DressingI topped a salad of romaine lettuce, purple cabbage, shredded carrot and celery with some of the dressing and I couldn’t believe the amazing olive and feta flavour that was delivered with every bite. Usually, when I add whole olives to a salad I try to space them out to get maximum enjoyment. With the blended olive dressing, I felt like every forkful was filled with salty tang of Greece.

Enjoying Olive Greek Dressing

The Mystery of the Disappearing Salad

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I don’t have a picture of the salad in question to show you, because it just keeps disappearing so quickly!

Have you ever just thrown some tasty ingredients together, making it up as you go, and somehow it turns into something so crazy delicious that you and everyone else can’t seem to get their fill? It’s a wonderful feeling when it happens. Instead of just recreating somebody else’s recipe, you have designed a dish of your own. I used to fool around with a Southwestern pasta salad with corn and chorizo and it was always pretty good. But, I’m trying to up my nutrients and dial back on the wheat, so I started playing around with it even further. In the fall, I subbed black quinoa for the pasta, added black beans for more fibre and went crazy with the veggies. My fellas went for seconds and made lots of happy sounds as they ate.

I ended up making an unseemly amount and took some of the overflow to work. I set it out at lunch time and invited everyone to dig in. Many of them hadn’t tried quinoa yet and displayed some reluctance to dive in. But, I persisted and after the first couple tried a bite it disappeared quickly. Almost every single person asked me for the recipe, but I didn’t really have one. It was just thrown together. I’d tell them a bunch of ingredients and then remember something else later and have to update them. Some of my coworkers even made their own versions at home! The highest of compliments.

When my husband, Exec Chef, came home that night he asked if there was any of the salad left and was disappointed when he found out that I’d taken it to work. For a guy who doesn’t do leftovers, this was pretty impressive. As autumn turned to winter and I couldn’t get any flavourful tomatoes or fresh corn, I took the salad in a new direction and switched in roasted root vegetables as a seasonal substitution. So, I present you with not one, but two recipes and there may be more versions to come!

 
Black Beauty Salad: Autumn Version
Dressing Ingredients:

juice of one lime (or maybe 2 if they are on the dry side)

splash of extra virgin olive oil

Tbs of dijon mustard

Salt and Pepper to taste

Salad Ingredients:

1 cup dry black quinoa (or red quinoa or white quinoa)

2 chorizo sausage diced (Freybe makes a nice one)

1 can black beans or 1 cup dried black beans (rehydrated and cooked)

1 ear fresh corn sliced off (or 1 cup frozen)

2 medium tomatoes diced

1/2 bunch cilantro minced

1/2 cup black olives (sliced)

1/2 cucumber diced

1 red onion diced

2 green onions sliced

Method:

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the quinoa, turn down to low and cover. Let it cook for 15 minutes, or just make extra when you have quinoa for breakfast.

Cook the chorizo on medium heat until the edges get dark and crispy.

Drain and rinse the beans. Toss the beans, corn and red onion in withe chorizo once it starts sizzling.

Let the quinoa and the chorizo mixture cool for a bit, so that they don’t cook the other ingredients. Then mix them all together and withe the dressing.

 
Black Beauty Salad: Winter Version

Dressing Ingredients:

juice of one lime (or maybe 2 if they are on the dry side)

splash of extra virgin olive oil

Tbs of Dijon mustard

Salt and Pepper to taste

Salad Ingredients:

1 medium parsnip diced

2 medium carrots diced

1 bell pepper diced (red, orange and yellow work better than green)

1 cup dry black quinoa (or red quinoa or white quinoa)

2 chorizo sausage diced (Freybe makes a nice one)

1 can black beans or 1 cup dried black beans (rehydrated and cooked)

1/2 bunch cilantro minced

1/2 cup black olives (sliced)

1 red onion diced

2 green onions sliced

Method:

Preheat oven to 400. Toss the parsnip, carrot and bell pepper with extra virgin olive oil and salt & pepper. Spread them out of a baking sheet and roast until golden (about 25-30 minutes)

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the quinoa, turn down to low and cover. Let it cook for 15 minutes, or just make extra when you have quinoa for breakfast.

Cook the chorizo on medium heat until the edges get dark and crispy.

Drain and rinse the beans. Toss the beans and red onion in withe chorizo once it starts sizzling.

Then mix all the ingredients together and toss with the dressing.

Now, watch it disappear right before your very eyes.

Caesar Seizure

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Caesar Seizure

When I met my husband, he was not yet the Executive Chef I know and love today. He was an apprentice line cook at a semi-veggie restaurant in our provincial capital. I loved taking my friends and family on Wednesday nights to sample his latest dish that he had created for their weekly appetizer special. My best gal, Lassette, STILL talks about the corn broth with cheese filled raviolis, even though it was over a (gulp) decade ago that she sampled it.

One of my favourite things about those days was when my boyfriend (tee hee) would call me at the end of his shift to see if he could bring me anything. Most nights I would reply with,”Oh, you know what I want, baby.” And he did, and he would deliver. He’d come home, I’d hear his key in the lock and cross the room to the door before he even had it open. I’d give him a kiss hello (if I remembered) and grab the bag from his hand. I’d already have our only mixing bowl out on the counter with utensils nearby. The first container held fresh, crisp romaine leaves that almost filled the bowl. Next, a smaller container chockfull of house made croutons, that started their life cycle as focaccia bread and then where blessed with copious quantities of garlic and olive oil. After that came the dressing (two containers if I was extra lucky), thick, creamy golden goodness to be scraped out over the leaves and croutons. Then I tossed it all together gently, to spread the dressing around in order to delicately coat each leaf and crispy cube of golden bread. Finally, the last container holding freshly grated Romano cheese was sprinkled over the slick surface.

Forgoing plates, and armed with forks, we’d take the single step to the couch and eat directly from the bowl. Those were the good old days, before we had a car, a kid or a clue. I think of those days fondly, and when I get to reminiscing, I am usually seized with a craving for that Caesar Salad of yore. Fortunately, the restaurant published a cookbook with their Caesar Salad dressing recipe. It’s pretty much the only way I can get my Chefs to eat salad without complaint (or conversation, we are all to busy enjoying). I usually add chicken to make it the full meal deal.

The croutons themselves are snacktastic. I don’t make them from focaccia, I use either sourdough (left over from making French Toast) or Italian (the bottom half only, the top gets used for garlic bread). I’ll freeze the cubed bread if I’m not using right away and let it fully thaw before letting them soak in olive oil flavoured with garlic, salt and pepper. I tend to snack on them while making the dressing, just the ugly ones of course.

I have the ingredients for the dressing memorized: roasted garlic, fresh garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese, dijon mustard, capers, anchovies, salt and pepper. The roasted garlic is easy to do: cut off the tops of two whole heads, place it in the centre of a square of aluminum foil, douse it in olive oil and s&p liberally, pop it in the oven at 450 for 45 minutes (I love the symmetry of those numbers). I measure everything else by taste. Once the roasted garlic is ready it goes into the blender (well, right now I’ve been using my immersion blender, apparently I wore my pastel yellow Kitchenaid blender out). Half a lemon gets its juice squozen in (yes it’s a new word, feel free to use it), one large, or two small sliced cloves of fresh garlic, a nice pile of parmesan falls gently from the grater, a squidge (second vocab word of the day) of dijon mustard, five or six capers,one single anchovy (oops, suddenly not vegetarian), a few grinds of pepper, a generous pinch of kosher salt and a splash of olive oil. Then the blending/tasting/blending/tasting begins! The quantities are never exact because the flavours change with the season, or the brand. Somtimes I use oil packed capers and anchovies, sometimes salt packed. This changes the intensity of the flavour and the impact to the dressing. Lemons can be sweeter or drier, garlic can be subtle or strong. This is where the tasting comes in.

Once the first round of all the ingredients are in and all blended together, a tiny spoon drops a taste on your tongue. Whatever ingredient you can taste individually doesn’t need to be increased. So, just keep adding more of everything you don’t taste until it’s a beautifully balanced blend of all the players. The best way to tell when you’re done is when you just start eating, rather than tasting, the dressing (you just may be too hungry to care, but that’s fine). Leftover dressing makes a great dip for carrot sticks or croutons the next day. Just kidding about the croutons, they wouldn’t last more than a day around my house!

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