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Super-yummy salad dressing (and dip). August 21, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. Next time you want a better ranch dressing or dip, try this fantastic, fast concoction from a friend of a friend:

Angie’s Amazing Ranch Dressing

2/3 store brand ranch dressing (or your favorite)
1/3 really good olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
cracked black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a jar, put on the lid, and shake.

That’s all there is to it! You’ll be absolutely amazed at what this does to storebought ranch dressing. It’s SO delicious! Angie had brought a jar to a supper gathering as a salad dressing, but no sooner had people tasted it than they started dipping Romaine leaves, cherry tomatoes and baby carrots into the jar and wolfing them down with relish. Try it, you’ll love it!

‘Til next time,



What to do with extra buttermilk? January 6, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. Supposedly, there are folks out there who just loooove to drink buttermik right out of the carton. Ewwwww. For the rest of us, it’s a crime that we can’t buy a pint or half-pint of buttermilk to go in our holiday recipes, since that’s typically the only time we ever use it.

Unfortunately, where I live, buttermilk only comes in quarts. And this presents the frugal cook, who doesn’t want to toss three cups of buttermilk after using the requisite one in the iconic Christmas corn pudding, with a dilemma. After all, one corn pudding a year is plenty. But what else can you make that will use up that buttermilk?

Cornbread might spring to mind. Lots of cornbread recipes include buttermilk. But none are as luscious as my family’s cornbread recipe, which uses sour cream. (Search for cornbread in the search bar at upper right for the super-easy, super-delicious recipe; you won’t regret it!) Why make a lesser cornbread just to get rid of buttermilk?

I suspect that pancakes would be a natural for buttermilk, but we don’t make them here at Hawk’s Haven, the cottage home our friend Ben and I share in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. I like to add a little dairy to enrich OFB’s scrambled eggs, but the amount would be so small that it would take weeks to use up the extra buttermilk. And I’ve found to my sorrow that omelettes, which would appear to be an ideal medium for milk, cream, or buttermilk, only really turn out well when you simply whisk three eggs with a whisk or fork.

Two options occurred to me: salad dressing and soup. After all, the original ranch dressing, created fresh by its owner for guests of the Hidden Valley Dude Ranch in the mid-1950s, contained buttermilk. And there just had to be a soup that buttermilk could enhance. So I turned to my good friend Google to see if I could find a solution to the buttermilk problem.

Sure enough, there was a recipe for buttermilk blue cheese dressing, courtesy of Prevention magazine. It involved sauteeing minced shallot in olive oil, then mixing the cooled shallot with 1 teaspoon of mustard, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, a cup of buttermilk, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, 2 ounces of crumbled blue cheese, and fresh-cracked black pepper and salt to taste. Sounds promising, and it uses a whole cup of that quart of buttermilk!

Celeb Brit chef Jamie Oliver’s also a buttermilk-dressing fan. His recipe calls for 9 tablespoons of buttermilk with 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard, 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot, 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill, and fresh-ground black pepper to taste.

But what about that soup? Hey, jackpot, and from Martha Stewart, of all things! This hits the jackpot because it uses 3 cups of buttermilk—exactly the amount I have left over—and adds potatoes for a hearty, soothing cold-weather soup. The ingredients are super-simple, too: Besides the 3 cups of buttermilk, you need 2 pounds of potatoes (such as Yukon Gold or your favorite), 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 4 small onions, thinly sliced, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste, fresh-cracked black pepper to taste, and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill. That’s it! Boil the potatoes, sautee the onions, herbs and spices in the butter and olive oil, cool and slice or dice the potatoes, add the other ingredients to the potatoes, and serve hot. Sounds good!

But, you know, now that I look at it, mashed Yukon Golds with buttermilk, lots of butter, and maybe some sauteed minced sweet onion, plus tons of fresh-cracked black pepper and salt (we love RealSalt and hot spiced Trocomare) might just hit the spot perfectly. Who doesn’t love mashed potatoes, especially when it’s cold outside?!

Do you have any recipes for using up extra buttermilk? I’d love to hear them!

‘Til next time,


Salad dressing goes green. November 17, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. When I was a child, a thick, creamy salad dressing called Green Goddess was all the rage. But I have to say I’ve never tasted it. My beloved Mama adored all things French and chic, as well as Julia Child and Jackie Kennedy. Our salads were dressed with classic vinaigrette: extra-virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, fresh-cracked black pepper, salt, an assortment of herbs. To this day, my favorite dressing combines extra-virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, fresh-cracked black pepper and salt, with the most robust horseradish I can find and some fresh-squeezed lemon (I prefer to add my herbs, fresh-chopped, directly to the salad).

But, while I adore all things Julia, I also have a rabid interest in culinary history. Green Goddess dressing is, well, green. What would make a dressing green? Avocado, I thought. And why on earth would Green Goddess dressing have been one of the most popular dressings in America, and then simply disappear? (Try to find it in your local grocery.) What did it taste like, anyway?

It turns out that Green Goddess dressing is a lot more complex than I assumed, starting with its name. Yes, the dressing is green, but it was made green to honor a 1923 play called “The Green Goddess.” It became a hit in San Francisco and throughout the West Coast, but avocado never played a part in its ingredient list. Instead, it was made from mayonnaise, sour cream, chervil, tarragon, chives, anchovies, lemon juice, and pepper. The chervil, chives and tarragon gave Green Goddess her classic green hue.  

Green Goddess reigned supreme among salad dressings until ranch dressing came on the scene in 1954, created by Steve Henson to serve his guests at his dude ranch, Hidden Valley Ranch. Hidden Valley Ranch dressing was born, and it’s been ranch dressing ever since. According to Wikipedia, Mr. Henson made his dressing with buttermilk, mayonnaise, onions, garlic, salt, black pepper, paprika, ground mustardseed, chives, parsley, and dill. Home cooks have added sour cream or plain yogurt.

So, if green goddess dressing was green because of tarragon, chives, and chervil, why isn’t ranch dressing green from chives, parsley, and dill? Maybe the green goddess dressing simply used a lot more of the herbs, but I suspect that the clincher was that green goddess was made with fresh herbs and ranch contained dried herbs. (And maybe dude ranch guests of the Fifties didn’t like their dressing green.)

By the time ranch dressing came along, it was clear that salad dressings could become big business if they could be made shelf-stable. At first, ranch, like green goddess, had to be refrigerated—a status symbol for today’s dressings, look for the expensive brands in the produce section, conveniently placed next to the salad greens. But tinkering with the recipe eventually resulted in bottled dressing that didn’t need to be refrigerated until it was opened.

And then the marketing geniuses behind the Rise of Ranch take shelf-stable one better and made packets of dry ranch ingredients that could be turned into dressing at home. (Clearly, they recognized the convenience and appeal of Good Seasons’ Italian dressing packets, conveniently sold with a cruet pre-marked with lines for oil, vinegar and water. No-fail dressing that said “homemade,” not purchased!)

But popular as ranch dressing became, it would probably have never become America’s #1 selling dressing if its marketers (let’s hope they’re all now living on their own private islands) hadn’t also begun selling ranch as a dip. A rich, creamy dip for everything from crudites to chicken wings. Dip and salad dressing, bottles and packets: Ranch overtook Italian to become America’s favorite dressing in 1992. As for Hidden Valley, the brand was purchased by Clorox in 1972. Let’s hope their bleach factories are far, far away from the dressing department.

But let’s return to the poor dethroned goddess. I still wondered why you’d make a green dressing without avocado, the obvious choice to turn a dressing green. The answer lies in the date when green goddess dressing was introduced: 1923. Although it originated in San Francisco, at the Palace Hotel, avocados has yet to make their way much farther north than L.A. by then; they were still a novelty North of the Border, unappreciated by most non-Hispanic citizens. Unattractive, bumpy fruits with slimy interiors? The market wasn’t, let’s just say, ripe.  

Not that adventurous chefs hadn’t been giving them a try. I have a 1919 copy of The Hotel St. Francis Cookbook. The chef at the hotel, also in San Francisco, features two recipes for avocado, the first calling it by a name some misguided marketer came up with based on its appearance: alligator pear. Eeeewww!!! I can bet that housewives everywhere were rushing out to buy them.

At any rate, the “Alligator pear salad” involved cutting ripe avocados in half, removing the pit, and filling each half with French dressing, then serving them on cracked ice. Or scooping out the avocado flesh, mounding it on lettuce leaves in a salad bowl, and covering it with French dressing.  This actually isn’t as hideous as it sounds, since for the chef, “French dressing” was a vinaigrette, not sweet, orangey glop, as he makes clear in the second recipe, “Avocado, French dressing:” “Split the avocado, remove the pit, and fill half full with a dressing made with salt, pepper, a little French mustard, and one-third vinegar and two-thirds olive oil.” This was clearly cutting-edge. Guacamole didn’t really come into its own in the U.S. until the 1970s. 

Longtime readers will know that I don’t give up on an idea easily, and by now, I had an avocado-based green goddess dressing on the brain. Avocado is oily enough to replace the original mayo in the recipe, but, to my mind, it still needs an allium punch. And clearly a mix of herbs is essential, even if you can’t find fresh tarragon and aren’t a fan of chervil. So I’m thinking half guac, half sour cream, with minced scallions (green onions), shallots, chives, and basil (for the licorice kick of the tarragon), lemon juice, lots of fresh-cracked black pepper, and Trocamare (hot herbed salt). More guac if it isn’t green enough, some crushed red pepper if it needs a little kick. A little fresh-squeezed OJ wouldn’t hurt, either.

Good? I’ll let you know after supper tonight.

              ‘Til next time,