These days my neighborhood is primarily Italian, but rewind a couple of decades and you’d see a very different picture. A few blocks over from where I live now used to be Scandinavian, specifically Norwegian. The streets used to be lined with Norwegian bakeries, stores, restaurants, etc. but unfortunately the majority of these have disappeared. However, all is not lost… every year there is a 17th of May parade, which is a national holiday in Norway marking the signing of their constitution and the best part (besides the food) are the people dressed in traditional clothing showing off their Norwegian pride.
Most of us are trying to eat healthier these days & lose a few pounds before we have to put on the dreaded bathing suit. I am among the masses doing the very same… I’ve been eating so much lettuce I’m afraid my front teeth are about to elongate into Bugs Bunny teeth.
The problem with salads, although to be quite honest I do like them, is the dressing. You think you are making a good choice by eating a salad for dinner and then you pour on a claggy dressing that has a ton of fat in it so you opt for the (sometimes chemical-laden) fat free variety, which in my book isn’t always the lesser of two evils.
Making salad dressing at home takes 5 minutes at most and is so much heathier and tastier that it really is worth the very minimal effort.
Tonight’s dinner was a Greek salad and chicken, so I made a Yogurt Dill dressing to tie the flavors together.
(A helpful hint to catch the lemon pits is to put a small strainer on top of the blender)
Some things just go together… peanut butter & jelly, bacon & eggs, mashed potatoes & gravy, champagne & … hell, ANYTHING.
For me, another one of those pairings is fish and any kind of salty condiment. I love salt. I know it isn’t good for you in excess, but I can’t help it. There are at least 8 different kinds of salt in my kitchen at this very moment. Smoked Salt, Truffle Salt, Hawaiian Pink Salt, French Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, Maldon Salt, Australian Pink Flake Salt, Sel Gris, but NEVER idiodized table salt.
I am not alone in this near-obsession. As is the case with most Chefs, we have a salty palate. What I mean by that is we are so accustomed to highly seasoned food that for the average person it can be a bit too salty. (My Mom used to tease me that she was going to buy me a salt lick at the feed store by our house).
To feed my addiction, I made olive tapenade. It is one of the most delicious things and it will keep in your refrigerator for over a week. It can be eaten on its own: spread of a piece of warm, toasted baguette, or use it as a flavoring on a piece of fish for example. Luckily for me I have a great fishmonger a few blocks away, which brings me back to some things just go together… Fish loves salt. It doesn’t have to come from actual salt, it can come from bacon, capers or olive tapenade! If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Where do fish live? (in salty ocean water…)
This afternoon I had left the Italian bakery and went next door to the fruit & vegetable stand with the intention of buying a tomato for a sandwich and the smell of sweet, ripe strawberries wafted up and smacked me right in the face. The smell was so sweet and fragrant I couldn’t resist buying two big containers of them.
Strawberries aren’t exactly in season quite yet, but these ruby beauties glistened in their plastic shell and beckoned me to take them home… I was more than happy to oblige.
While the majority of these will be eaten just as they are, a few lucky berries will be swimming in a cloyingly sweet syrup drizzled over top of a strawberry shortcake.
There are two schools of thought where a shortcake is considered… some prefer more of a “biscuit” type shortcake that isn’t sweet at all. My insatiable sweet-tooth however, won’t stand for it. The “shortcake” part of my dessert is a rich buttery cake that is sweet and good enough to eat on its own.
Macarons (french spelling). When I mention this most people immediately think of the coconut treat they are familiar with, but one can’t even compare them to this french beauty. A macaron for me is near perfection. The crisp outer layer giving way to its luxuriously tender belly is sheer bliss.
I was lucky enough to be shown by a French baker how to make these delicate little sweets.
The task at first seemed rather daunting, but once it’s broken down it really isn’t that bad. Granted this is not something you would do when you’re pressed for time. This is a special treat when you are feeling particularly capable. The absolute most important thing that I can convey with this is to have everything prepped, ingredients measured out and ready to go. The last thing you want to do is hunt for a piece of equipment when you have sugar bubbling away furiously on the stove.
I will apologize in advance for the fact that this is in metric measurements and before I get any scathing comments for putting something so complicated here, it really isn’t that difficult. You will need a good thermometer, digital is best but if all you have is the conventional one, no worries.
One of the things most of us feel we never have enough of (besides money) is time. Being at work at an obscenely early hour and not returning home until 10 hours later, I rarely feel I can take a leisurely approach to dinner.
Most people say to me “I’m sure the last thing you feel like doing when you get home is cooking” and sometimes they’re right, but a girl’s gotta eat…
A common misconception with people who may not have Chefs in their lives is that we come home and make seared foie gras. Hardly…
Like teachers, fireman, etc. most chefs do it for the love of the job. Being a chef isn’t always a lucrative gig.
One thing a chef learns quickly when creating a menu is food costs. This translates well into our own kitchens, because like i just said, we aren’t all Tom Colicchio or Mario Batali with restaurant empires.
Dinner most nights needs to be quick, not terribly expensive, good for me and most of all NOT leave a mess of dishes to clean up. If there is one chore I LOATHE it’s washing dishes.
Here’s one of my old favorites that fits the bill quite nicely: