So Can You Cook ? 20

Great Cover-Ups

There is nothing worse than a naked salad. All the ingredients involved in its composition – lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, fruits, nuts, avocado and whatever meat you choose – may taste great as individual components, but when combined together need a melding substance, something to bring all the flavours together. This is what a dressing is for.
I’ve had some great dressing experiences in my day – like the delicious balsamic dressing on a Rocket, Walnut & Parmesan salad from ‘The Vanilla Room’ at Leichhardt to an absolute pits of a Caesar dressing from a café in Bondi. In fact, considering that my judgement on the quality of a café is gauged by how good a Caesar Salad they make, this café rates down the bottom of my list. Really…a Caesar salad consisting of julienned iceberg lettuce, carrots and other salad odds and ends really does show a lack of respect for one of the worlds greatest acknowledged salads. There aren’t words to express my horror when it was put in front of me. Still, I had my revenge. I never go back twice.
We should be fussy about salads, and fussy about the quality of the products presented to us in a salad. We have accessibility to some of the freshest and highest quality greens anywhere, and not to use them to our advantage, or to not present them at their best is a sin.
As I have mentioned before, we live on salads during summer. It is a constant problem to keep them fresh and interesting – they are something that can become boring very quickly if not enough variety is presented – but there is a wealth of great books out now that cover nothing but salads. ‘Woman’s Weekly’ have several out in what I call their ‘bible’ series – all those $12+ soft-covered books available in any newsagents. These books are absolute musts in my kitchen – great recipes that always work, little effort and great results. They also have several great salad books in their mini-book series, also from newsagents. ‘Gourmet Traveller’ also have a great book of salads out which covers everything from the basics to the most exotic from all countries.
Anyway, todays column is about dressing salads, and the following are great ways to dress salads and give them life and zing. Always try to match your dressing to your salad style – if doing an Italian salad, use and Italian dressing; if a Greek salad, use a Greek dressing. For Asian salads use your own combinations of soy, lime juice, peanut oil, fish sauce, chillies, mirin, rice wine vinegar etc. Just taste and add until you get it right.

BASIC VINAIGRETTE:
60ml (1/4 cup) fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, crushed
pinch raw sugar
salt & pepper to taste

Whisk together the lemon juice, oil, mustard, garlic and sugar in a small bowl until well combined. Season to taste
Makes 1/3 cup

TO CONVERT THE ABOVE TO A BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE:
Substitute the lemon juice for 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.
Makes ¾ cup

CREAMY DRESSING:
125ml (1/2 cup) buttermilk
70g (1/4 cup) low-fat yoghurt
3 teaspoons freshly chopped chives
2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
salt & pepper to taste

Whisk together buttermilk, yoghurt chives and mustard in a bowl until well combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Cover and store in fridge until needed.
Makes 150ml

TO CONVERT ABOVE TO A CASAR DRESSING:
Omit the chives and wholegrain mustard. Place the buttermilk, yoghurt, 3 drained anchovy fillets (coarsely chopped), 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard and 1 small garlic clove on the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and well combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Store in the fridge until required.
Makes 150 ml

SWEET SOY DRESSING
80ml (1/3 cup) mirin (Japanese rice wine – Asian section in supermarket)
2 tablesppons caster sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil

Combine the mirin and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool.
Add the soy sauce and oil to the mirin mixture and whisk until combined.
Makes 150ml

TO CONVERT THE ABOVE TO A CHILLI & CORIANDER SWEET SOY DRESSING:
Add 1 fresh red birdseye chilli, halved, deseeded, finely chopped to the mirin and sugar in step 1. Stir in 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander just before serving.
Makes 150ml

DILL DRESSING: Great with Salad Nicoise
1 tablesppon wholegrain mustard
125ml (1/2 cup) olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 clove crushed garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Combine ingredients in a screw-top jar; shake well.
Makes approx 200ml

FRENCH DRESSING;
60ml (1/4 cup) white vinegar
180ml (3/4 cup) olive oil
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Combine ingredients in a screw-top jar; shake well
Makes about 1 cup

FRESH TOMATO SAUCE;
3 large egg (Roma) tomatoes, peeled, seeded,quartered
2 shallots, chopped coarsely
80ml (1/3 cup) red wine vinegar
80ml (1/3 cup) sweet chilli sauce
2 cloves garlic, quartered
1 teaspoon seeded mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley

Blend or process ingredients until almost smooth
Makes about 1¼ cups

ITALIAN DRESSING:
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
180ml (3/4 cup) olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano

Combine ingredients in screw-top jar; shake well.
Makes about 1 cup

BASIC MAYONNAISE: To really get the right consistency, mayonnaise should be whisked by hand. However, it’s a long hard job – trust me on this. Blenders and processors do an okay job.
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon DRY mustard
½ cup light olive oil
¼ cup EV olive oil

Whisk, blend or process egg yolks, juice, salt and mustard until smooth. Add combined oils gradually in thin stream while motor is running. Blend until thick.
Makes ¾ cup
OIL MUST BE ADDED VERY SLOWLY, OTHERWISE MAYONNAISE WILL SPLIT. Another good reason to do it by hand.
For Lime Mayonnaise: Substitute lime juice for lemon juice.
For Thousand Island Mayonnaise: Whisk 1/3 cup tomato paste; 1/3 cup tomato sauce; 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce; ½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce into ¾ cup basic mayonnaise.
For Curried Mayonnaise: Add 1 tablespoon curry powder to ¾ cup basic mayonnaise.
For Herb Mayonnaise: Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves to ¾ cup basic mayonnaise.
For Garlic Mayonnaise: Add 3 cloves quartered garlic to the egg yolk mix when processing.

Tim Alderman
Copyright 2014

BALSAMIC REDUCTION:
Place ¼ cup balsamic vinegar and 1 tablesppon brown sugar into a small saucepan. Bring to boil, then boil for 5 minutes or until reduced by half. Cool before using. 1 tablespoon honey can be substituted for brown sugar to give a honeyed flavour.

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