Posts Tagged ‘sauces and dressings’

You know how it is:  you move to a new way of eating and you do your best to get the rest of your family on board.  Now, once Choo started to see the changes in my health and figure, he quickly followed suit.  Kiddo, on the other hand, has been a tough sell.  I’m starting out slowly… changing peanut butter for almond butter; having him eat eggs for breakfast instead of cereal a few times a week; making his lunchbox treats with less flour and more nut and seed meals.  One thing that’s been a challenge is replacing store-bought condiments with homemade; Kiddo isn’t fooled–he knows that’s not REAL ketchup.  I feel like I’ve been lucky to have a kid that actually does like some vegetables, but he’s been asking for “sauce” (Ranch Dressing).  Now, have you ever seen the label on a bottle of Ranch?  Yeah.  I’m not going there ever again.

I had some lebni leftover from a trip to my local Persian market, along with some fresh herbs and buttermilk, a whirl through the food processor, and I had a dressing worth putting on salads and dipping our carrots.   This was quick to put together, and once put in a clean jar, will hold for about two weeks.


Creamy Herb Dressing

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup Lebni,  full-fat Greek yogurt, or sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (less if wanting a thicker dressing/dip)
  1. In a food processor, add mayo, Lebni/yogurt/sour cream, lemon juice and garlic clove and pulse about 3 times to mix.
  2. Add fresh herbs, salt, and pepper and pulse until herbs are chopped.
  3. Pour in buttermilk and pulse again until combined.
  4. Store in glass jar or container.

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Some foodie might come across and wag his finger at me for being so pedestrian.

It’s the salad that has shown up on menus all over the place with a few variations;  it’s become the other salad you can order on the menu if you’re not in the mood for a Caesar Salad or a wedge of Iceburg.

But, you know what?  I don’t care.  I love this salad.  The fresh bitterness in the greens; the creamy acidity of the chevre, the crunch of the nuts, and the sweetness provided by the dried fruit and vinaigrette–it’s a perfect salad to me.  There’s also something really satisfying about eating greens that aren’t even 24 hours out of the farm;  I had spent part of my morning at the farmer’s market, choosing the salad greens and deciding on his Mesculun mix (which did contain a few leaves of frisee–not my favorite of all the greens).

Market Greens Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

serves 4 as a first/salad course

6 ounces of Mesculun (a mix of baby salad leaves)

2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette (recipe to follow)

1 1/2 ounces fresh chevre, crumbled

1/2 cup candied pecans, roughly chopped

1/4 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit

In a large mixing bowl, pour the balsamic vinaigrette into the bottom, and add salad greens.  Toss with tongs until leaves are fully coated with the dressing.  Pile greens onto plate and sprinkle with the chevre, pecans, and cranberries.

This balsamic vinaigrette comes from my catering days–I made a batch of this every 2 weeks for over 2 years.  I haven’t a clue where it originally came from.  It’s a dressing that seems to always get complements when I serve it–it has the right balance of sweetness and acidity.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 large garlic clove

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

In a blender or a food processor, add vinegar, honey, and garlic.  Start blender, and begin to add olive oil, drop by drop at first, then a slow stream until the vinaigrette has thickened.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and pulse blender again for a moment to mix in.  Store in a jar or air tight container.

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There’s a booth at the Calabasas Farmer’s Market, tucked way in the back, that’s easy to walk past if you’re not paying attention;  they caught my eye a few weeks ago, and they have quickly become one of my favorite stops on Saturday morning, as they sell hefty, fat bunches of fresh herbs, 6 for $5.  You can mix and match, so I always come home with basil, parsley, cilantro and usually some green onions or radishes (also on the 6-for-5 table).  This time, since I had planned for making tomato sauce to freeze this week, I needed basil, and went ahead and bought more than I could ever use in a batch of sauce.

A quick check of my fridge confirmed that I had everything I needed:  it was time to make some pesto.

Pesto may be really one of the few things I can just keep on eating by the spoonful.  There’s just something about the fresh green hint-of-anise of  basil, the hot bite of raw garlic, the earthiness of the pine nuts and the sharpness from the Parmesan (or Pecorino, if you’re being a traditionalist) that is absolutely delightful to me.  It’s remarkably versatile, from a pasta sauce to being stirred into a steaming bowl of minestrone, or mixed in with mayonnaise to make a sandwich or a burger more interesting.

If you’re up for doing something the way it was once done, you can follow the description noted by Waverly Root in The Food of Italy:

The soul of pesto is basil, and the patience and care characteristic of Genoese cooking appear from the very start of pesto making in the meticulous preparation of the basil. It is first deprived of its stems and central veins; only the deveined leaves go into the mortar in which it will be ground. Pesto makers are adamant on this point: no one can chop the ingredients fine enough; they must be ground, and, it is specified, in a marble mortar (with a pestle “of good wood,” one recipe adds, but does not insist on any specific sort of wood). You begin by crushing the basil leaves carefully with coarse kitchen salt and a clove of garlic. The tender green color of this mixture is your guide for the rest of the process. It should be maintained as the other ingredients are added; if it weakens, put in more basil. Next you add equal parts of young Sardinian pecorino cheese and old Parmesan (if you want a stronger taste, increase the proportion of the sharp Sardinian cheese; if you want it milder, decrease it). As you grind this with the rest, add olive oil (preferably Ligurian) drop by drop until you have achieved the desired density (you may want it thicker for soup than for pasta). The last ingredient is pine nuts (some persons use walnuts instead), which must also be crushed so thoroughly that they become so indistinguishable part of the whole pungent creamy mass.

Or, pull out the food processor.


This is one of those things I really don’t use a recipe, but this is a pretty basic ratio:

3 cups fresh washed basil leaves

2 cloves of garlic (I like mine garlicky, I’ll use about 4-6 cloves)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

1/2 cup toasted Pine Nuts

1/2 to 1 cup olive oil (use less if you want more of a paste)

salt to taste (expect around 1/2 to 1 tsp)

Put basil, garlic, pine nuts, and cheese in processor and pulse while drizzling in olive oil until pesto is a desired consistency.  Stir in salt and use immediately, or pour into an air-tight container.  To keep your pesto from turning dark on the exposed surface, pour a layer of olive oil on top, just enough to cover the pesto fully. It will be good in your refrigerator for a week, or if you plan to use it later, pesto can easily be frozen.


Make a batch before basil goes completely out of season.

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