Monday, April 24, 2006

Tis the season for salads

I've had a few more thoughts about salads. First, about the herbs: you can always just throw in whatever fresh stuff you have, and surprise yourself with what the mix tastes like. Parley, thyme, chives, sage, cilantro, it's all yummy. But don't forget about less traditional flavorings, like citrus zest or mint. I made a spring salad for Easter with asparagus, greens, carrots, and a mint/parsley vinagrette that was pretty darn yummy. And mint, with its prolifigate nature (to put it mildly - if you've ever grown it you know that once you start, you can't stop, because the mint just won't ever die) really sings spring to me.

Another thing to think about is what to do about your vegetables. I'm a fan of blanching the really crispy ones. Most people, if they're going to make a salad with asparagus, cook it first, but it also works well to blanch vegetables like carrots or broccoli. And if you have no idea what the word blanch means, fear not, for I will translate: it's just a quick cook in boiling water (usually no more than three or four mintes) followed by a bath in ice water to instantly stop the cooking. This leaves your vegetables pleasantly toothsome, but now sweeter and lacking in the bitter flavors I always dislike in veg like raw broccoli.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The truth about oil and vinegar

A few nights ago I had my friend Greta over for dinner, and she mentioned that she loves my salad dressing. Now, I pretty much make the same salad dressing every single time I make it, because I like my recipe too. And if you know me, you know that once I find something that I like I stick with it. Hence my daily consumption of Campbell's Clam Chowder for most of my elementary school career.

So, if you're tired of Paul Newmans's Balsamic Vinagrette, or have OD'd on Ranch, here is my recipe. Basically, it's all about proportion. The mantra you can sing as you work is 1/2, 1, 4. That is, 1/2 measure dijon mustard, 1 measure vinegar, 4 measures extra virgin olive oil, plus a pinch of salt. That's it. Mix up the mustard, vinegar, and salt, then whisk in the oil. And you have to be true to this - a lot of people want to stint on the olive oil because it looks like too much, or they're worried about fat. If you're worried about fat, then just make less dressing. But too much vinegar makes for a mouth-puckering experience that will send you running back to your bottled French in a hurry, trust you me.

And once you've got that down, it's super easy to vary it. Try different vinegars: red wine, balsamic, or apple cider, or a different acid - lemon or lime juice. Add herbs, chopped or fresh. Add a teaspoon of sugar, if you like sweet dressings, or a clove of fresh chopped garlic, if you're a garlic freak like me. Fresh ground pepper, or a splash of a different oil, like sesame or walnut, also gives the dressing a whole new flavor.

Then, toss with your salad and enjoy your greens, glistening with your very own tasty homemade salad dressing.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Styling Your Kitchen

If you're going to be a regular follower of Styling with Renee Michelle, you're going to need gear. I was at Target yesterday and noticed that at the entrance, where they sell all kinds of random crap for a buck, that they had a bunch of kitchen implements. So if you're in need of a garlic press or a vegetable peeler, go check it out. Of course, if you have an IKEA addiction like I do, you are not impressed by cheap stylish stuff because you can go get it there any time you want.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Books That Tell You How to Dress

If you're intrigued by the idea of fashion, but can't figure out where to begin, take a look at this article:

It's a review on Slate of various books on fashion. They explain why you have "clothing issues," help you discover your inner sense of style, and give helpful hints. It's true: short women really shouldn't wear Capri pants.