Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Basil Buttermilk Salad Dressing and Dip {a recipe}

Veg and Buttermilk Basil Dip
If you ask around, it's pretty hard to find someone who truly doesn't like ranch dressing.  We may turn up our noses at it as junk food - something kids use to mask the flavor of vegetables and dip their pizza in - but secretly, we all have to admit we like the tangy, creamy flavor.

When Hidden Valley Ranch first hit the market back in the 80s, it was a packet of dehydrated seasonings and buttermilk powder that you mixed with your own mayonnaise and milk to make your own "fresh" dressing.


Fast forward a couple of decades, I found this truly fresh buttermilk dressing recipe on the old Gourmet website, and marveled at how much it tasted like good old ranch.  I hadn't made it in a long time - but then last week we were having some friends over, I had pulled some baby carrots out of the garden, and I had  some sweet little radishes, cauliflower and romanesco from the farmers market - so I thought a crudite with homemade dressing would be just the thing.  I whipped up a batch of this and sure enough,  it was a hit with kids and grownups alike.  For the dip I used a healthy dollop of sour cream with just a splash of buttermilk - you can adjust as you see fit.   

Either way, it's something everyone will love, and nobody will be ashamed to admit it!
Veg and Buttermilk Basil Dip
Basil Buttermilk Dressing or Dip
adapted from Gourmet, January, 2005
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
this is great with crudite, and would also be fantastic on tomatoes or over an iceberg wedge.  Just add crumbled blue cheese and leave out the basil the to turn it into blue cheese dressing!

2 fresh, juicy garlic cloves
Rounded 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2/3 cup good quality mayonnaise (I use Hain)
1/3 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 to 2/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk
a few grinds of pepper

Mince garlic and mash to a paste with salt using large heavy knife (or in a mortar and pestle.)

Stir together mayonnaise, sour cream, basil, and garlic paste in a small bowl. Add enough buttermilk to achieve desired consistency - a little more for a dressing, less for a dip. Add two or three grinds of fresh black pepper.

Chill, covered, for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to develop.

Keeps, refrigerated, for about three days.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Melted Humboldt Fog with Chanterelles

Melted Humboldt Fog with Chanterelles
Wow, where did last week go? That was fast. On Saturday night we had a few people over to watch a movie. This is kind of a new thing - a monthly "Film Club" based on one our friend Tom started in San Francisco. Tom put an ad on Craigslist and invited strangers, and so far we've just stuck to friends, but if our friends keep canceling at the last minute, we may rethink that strategy. Anyhoo, we did it on a Saturday night this month, so I stepped up the food a bit. Normally it's just some "snacky bits" as we call them in this house - popcorn, olives, cheese, crackers, maybe something sweet. This weekend I did some Corned Beef and Cabbage Sliders (made with kimchi), a shaved Cauliflower and Fennel Salad with Caper Vinaigrette and something that is seriously the best and easiest "dish" you'll ever eat. (Provided of course that you like goat cheese!) Humboldt Fog cheese, heated until melted and bubbling.
Shaved Cauliflower and Fennel Salad with Caper Vinaigrette
It's delicious enough cold, but when it's heated, the gooey outer later melts and turns to liquid (and bubbles and browns if you leave it in long enough) and the middle becomes almost soufflé-like. I first tried this when it was on the menu at JRDN, and when the Fresh and Easy down the hill from us carried it, we had it maybe once a month for dinner with a salad and some bread. When they stopped carrying it, I stopped going there. It isn't cheap, but on balance, given it's ease and deliciousness - I say it's worth it.
Corned Beef and Cabbage Sliders
If you can get your hands on some (I think they're just about to go out of season) - Chanterelles are fabulous with it - but any mushroom will do. Just toss with a little olive oil and arrange in the dish around the cheese. Bake at 400 until hot and bubbly. That's it, that's all!

I made the sliders with Trader Joes Corned Beef, sliced and piled on their little slider buns with swiss cheese. I ran them under the broiler to melt the cheese, and topped them with well-drained kimchi slaw and a bit of mustard. The salad is shaved cauliflower and fennel, tossed with a mustard vinaigrette with a bit of anchovy paste, lots of lemon juice and a spoonful of capers!