Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lovely, Lovely Lettuce....

What a gift I received today!  My friend, Jane's, family owns and operates the wonderful, "Bluebonnet Hydroponic Farms" here in San Antonio.  They provide the glorious greens for some of the top grocery stores and restaurants in the area.  A few days ago I called to ask her if I could purchase "a couple heads of lettuce" and instead I was presented with this beautiful display! 
     There were also squash blossoms and watercress-- Ben's favorite!  That peppery green takes him back to his childhood when he could gather it wild from the cold stream that flowed through our neighborhood backyards.  I guess even young boys like their veggies when they can pick them that way!
Quality produce like this deserves to be center-stage, so that means a big salad for dinner!  I like to add warm, thinly sliced pan sauteed or grilled chicken breast for protein and only the tastiest homemade dressing (or two-- we all love options!) will do!
Here are my two favorite recipes for salad dressing.  They are easy to mix up and wonderful on all types of salads. 
I call this "Charleston Dressing" because I got it from an old Charleston Junior League cookbook.  Published in 1950, it is the oldest Junior League cookbook still in print.  I changed it a bit to make it more "2012 kitchen friendly", which is something I really enjoy doing with old recipes.  Anyway, it is a vinaigrette style dressing that is wonderful with a salad of mixed greens, chopped tomatoes, diced artichoke hearts, and diced avocado.  If you try it, I think it will be a favorite with your family!
Charleston Dressing
2 rounded tsp. salt
1 rounded tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 smashed clove of garlic
1 cup olive oil
1/4-1/3 cup red wine vinegar (depends how tangy you like your dressings)

Shake everything up in a quart jar with a tight fitting lid.  Allow the ingredients to blend by putting the dressing in the fridge until you need it (at least a few hours).  Be sure to remove the garlic clove if it plops out onto your salad.  This makes about 1.5 cups dressing.  It gets used up quickly at my house! 

My other favorite dressing is this homemade buttermilk ranch.  It has such a fresh, "clean" taste-- you will absolutely think making your own ranch dressing is worth it.  Plus, it doesn't have all the chemical additives of bottled ranch or that kind of "gloppy" consistency.   Again, it needs to be made at least a few hours ahead to let the flavors develop.  It will keep in the fridge for a week. 

Homemade Ranch Style Dressing
In a food processor or blender, chop up around 1/3 cup red onion, 2 scallions (use about 1/2 of the green part), and a clove of garlic.  If using a blender, it will chop better if you add 3/4 cup buttermilk to help move everything around.  Otherwise, after chopping, add about 3-4 sprigs worth of fresh thyme leaves (about 2 tsp.), 1 cup sour cream, the 3/4 cup buttermilk (you've already added it if you used it with the blender), and 1/2 cup REAL mayonnaise.  Process to blend everything well.  Add salt and pepper to taste (I use 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper.).  Store in the fridge.  Makes about 2 cups dressing-- it gets used up quickly!
Note:  I suppose you can use low fat or "fat free" ingredients to make this dressing, but really, if you make a healthy salad it will have very few calories, so why not allow a few extra calories for the dressing?  Besides, I read that "fat free" can mean extra sugar, sodium and chemicals so that you don't gain much healthwise and I think you'll definitely lose something taste-wise!

I hope you try either or both of these dressings!  Homemade dressing makes a big difference in salads but it's quick and inexpensive to put together--AND you know what's in there!


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