Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Simple French Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Years ago I learned to make this simple dressing from a dear French friend. I use it almost daily in all its variations.

I make this with no recipe - more by feel. Here are the general directions, but you need to experiment with the proportions.

This makes enough for a large salad. But you can make extra and store it in a jar in the refrigerator. Just shake before serving.

French Vinaigrette

  • Use a sturdy bowl.
  • Start with good quality dijon mustard - 1/2 to 1 teaspoon.
  • Add salt and fresh ground pepper. You need plenty of salt - remember you will be flavoring a big bowl of greens.
  • Add any other flavorings you'd like - honey (same amount as mustard) for a sweet dressing (great with bitter greens), and fresh or dried herbs - my French friend liked to add a finely chopped shallot
  • Add about 2 tablespoons of the acid - this can be lemon juice or vinegar
  • Gradually whisk in the oil - 3 or 4 times the amount of the acid - about 6 tablespoons. I use very good quality olive oil. As you whisk in the oil, the mixture will emulsify and become creamy.
  • Taste, adjust seasoning, and toss with greens.

Chocolate Mousse

I've worked on perfecting this recipe for years

Chocolate Mousse

3 eggs, separated
4 ounces dark chocolate (flavor is important – so use good quality - I like to use a few different varieties – you can add some cocoa if you want it extra chocolatey)
¼ cup milk
½ cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream

  • Heat chocolate, sugar, and milk in pan over low heat. Be gentle and stir often so the chocolate doesn't scorch.  Heat until chocolate melts and sugar dissolves. Take off the heat for a minute.
  • Beat egg yolks with a fork or whisk. Pour a little of the warm chocolate mixture into the yolks and stir in to carefully raise the temperature without curdling the eggs.
  • Whisk egg mixture into the chocolate pan. Cook gently with lots of stirring (whisk is best) until you just see a bubble or two (to make sure the eggs are cooked).
  • Pour into bowl and let cool to room temperature. Mixture should be like thick pancake batter. If it's too thick, whisk in a little more milk.
  • Meanwhile whip the egg whites until almost stiff (holds soft peaks). When chocolate is cooled, carefully fold in egg whites (spatula works best).
  • Whip cream until stiff. Fold it into chocolate mixture. You can reserve some for a topping if you like.
  • Spoon into pretty bowls or stemmed glasses. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream and chocolate curls (made with a peeler) or a bit of fruit.

Mango Mousse

I learned to make this when we lived in the Caribbean and had 3 glorious Mango trees in our yard.

Mango Mousse

1 env. unflavored gelatin
6 tbsp. sugar
1/4 c. cold water
1 1/2 c. fresh mango puree (from 2 lg. ripe mangoes)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 lg. egg whites, at room temp.
1/2 pt. (1 c.) heavy or whipping cream

In microwavable 1-quart bowl, combine gelatin and 4 tablespoons sugar. Stir in water and microwave uncovered on high 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until gelatin and sugar dissolves. Stir in mango puree and lemon juice. Chill mixture just until it mounds slightly. In small bowl, with electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually beat in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into mango puree mixture.

In small bowl with beaters, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold mango mixture into whipped cream (reserve a little cream if desired, for garnish). Divide mango mousse among 6 serving dishes. Chill mousse until firm. To serve, garnish with whipped cream, mango slice and mint sprigs, if desired.

Serves 6

Fermented European Bread

Justin found this recipe years ago in the New York Times. It's probably my all time favorite recipe find. The bread is easy to make, incredibly delicious, and always impressive.

Don't be discouraged by the sticky dough - it may look like it won't work, but it does - and it's worth it!

Fermented european bread

3 c flour
1/4 t instant yeast
1 t salt
cornmeal or wheatbran

1. Combine flour, yeast, salt. Add 1 5/8 c water, stir until blended. Dough will be sticky (you may need to add a little extra flour – it should just form a soft ball). Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise 12-18 hrs at room temp (if you need it faster, double the yeast – I’ve made is with a 6 hour rising time).

2. When surface is dotted with bubbles, dough is ready. Flour your work surface. Put dough on it. Sprinkle a little flour on the dough and fold it over itself once or twice. The dough will be very sticky and you will wonder how it will ever form into a loaf – have faith.

3.  Gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball using lots of flour and a flour covered spatula if necessary to fold the loaf a few times. Coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal. Put dough, seam side down, on towel and dust with more flour. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise 30-60 minutes. When ready, dough will be double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with finger.

4. Heat oven to 450 1/2 hr before backing. Put a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, pyrex or ceramic, corning) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn dough over into pot.  It may look like a mess but that's ok. Gently shake pan once or twice if dough is uneven.  It will straighten out as it bakes.  Cover with lid and bake 30 min. then remove lid and bake another 15-30 until loaf is beautifully browned.  Cool on rack.

Sour dough option – add ½ cup of sour dough starter and decrease water to 1 ½ cups. You may need a little extra flour.

Makes one 1.5 lb loaf