Friday, April 27, 2007

Day 117: Day o’ Dressings

Wednesday, as I enjoyed the quiet of my 10-minute break at Starbucks, I roved through the Denver Post and plucked the sudoku puzzle out of the Food section. I noticed an article on healthy dressings, but didn’t have time to read it. Today, sorting my laundry into piles, I came across the folded sheet of newsprint in my apron pocket. It’s a good article about balancing homemade dressings, including information from FoodNetwork’s Alton Brown about ways to reduce oil content. I’m citing the two recipes here, because they look great, and very spring-ish, also because then I don’t have to write them down or keep the article. I’m not too excited about the use of buttermilk (I think it smells terrible), but I’ll give ‘er a go because the orange-poppyseed combo sounds delish.

Honey-Lemon Tea Dressing
Makes 1/2 cup
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 T lemon juice
2 T strong black tea
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt & freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, tea, mustard and honey. Season.
Calorie information per tablespoon: 49 calorites, 5g total fat, 3g carbs, 118 mg sodium.

Orange-Poppy Seed Dressing
Makes 1-1/4 cups
2 tsp poppy seeds
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. reduced-fat sour cream
1 T honey
2 T orange juice
In a small, dry skillet, toast poppy seeds over low heat, stirring constantly until fragrant (about 1 minute). Transfer to a small bowl. Add the buttermilk, sour cream, honey and orange juice. Whisk until smooth.
Calorie information per tablespoon: 21 calorites, 1g total fat, 1g protein, 2g carbs, 13 mg sodium.
“Brown offers a neat trick for mixing vinaigrettes. He suggests combining all the ingredients plus several ice cubes in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and then shaking well for a minute. ‘The ice cubes are like those beads in a can of spray paint, they emulsify and blend,’ he says. ‘Also, the addition of a little water from the melting ice slightly softens the bite of the acidic ingredients.” That’s a nice tip.

I don’t know about you, but I get tired of spending an average of $4 on a bottle of salad dressing only to find that it doesn’t taste quite right. Perhaps I’m just picky about dressing. I usually test a good 4-5 bottles of a certain variety before finding a good match, though it took much longer to find a Greek dressing with feta that’s not super strong. My point is that it’s always nice to be able to make a few dressings at home that are stellar. The current staple around here is a smooth, creamy balsamic vinaigrette. Here’s my recipe (sorry, no calorie content info here):

Christine’s Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1 tsp minced garlic (optional)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch of salt
1/2-3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Shake everything up in a sealed jar or dressing container until smooth and creamy. Serve over mixed green salads or grilled vegetables.

A good vinaigrette is really versatile.For a change, switch the minced garlic with minced shallots, or change the type of oil to match the toasted nuts you’re adding. I usually add a smaller amount of the oil, if possible, to keep the calories down. If I need the vinaigrette sweeter to go with, say, oranges in a salad, I’ll add a tablespoon of honey. It’s just nice to have something fast and homemade. And this will last for at least a week in your fridge, just remember to take it to room temperature and shake it again before serving.

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