JEFF TIEDEMAN: Dressing up your saladsDon’t overlook vinaigrettes when it comes topping greens.
Most people’s gardens reflect their tastes in food, and mine is no exception.
Tomatoes probably rank No. 1 with me. One reason I grow them is because none you buy in the supermarket can compare with the fresh ones that come right out of the garden.
But I would be remiss to say that’s my only motivation. I couldn’t go through the winter without several dozen quarts of homemade tomato juice on the pantry shelf much less the 20 to 30 pints each of whole tomatoes and salsa.
Then, there are cucumbers. By the time fall rolls around, we have canned 30 to 40 quarts of dill pickles and another couple of dozen pints of bread and butters, not to mention a batch of 14-day sweet chunk pickles every other year.
And the carrots and onions that I grow last us well into the spring each year.
But the past several of summers, I’ve gotten into the greens. This spring, for example, I planted two kinds of leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach and kale along with beets, which have delicious green tops.
I also sowed some Malabar spinach seeds. Malabar spinch really isn’t spinach — it is in the Basellaceae family — but its taste is similar. Unlike spinach grown in the northern U.S. that bolts when it gets hot, Malabar is a very warm-season crop and is extremely heat tolerant. It also is a fast-growing vine plant with semisucculent, heart-shaped leaves that produces best when trellised. (This crop is native to tropical Asia, probably originating in India or Indonesia.)
Some might think that’s a lot of greens, but it’s not if you’re into salads. We probably have a salad at nearly every supper year-round, but it’s not just the ones in the summer that I find tasty.
That’s because Therese does a wonderful job with salads. Her secret is a tangy homemade vinaigrette, a combination of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and a little sugar.
I think every cook should know how to make vinaigrettes. Besides dressing salad, you can use them as a marinade or pour a little into the hot skillet after you cook fish, chicken or meat to make a quick pan sauce. And you also can change them easily, by using a different oil or vinegar or adding fresh or dried herbs.
Here are a few more tips for making your vinaigrette and salads tastier:
n Dry lettuce leaves so dressing clings to them.
n If a salad has strong acid elements, just use olive oil and lemon juice.
n Mix up your vinegars: mild rice or sweet balsamic, tangy red wine or apple cider.
n Oils range from mild vegetable to olive; go easy with intensely flavored seed (sesame) or nut (walnut, hazelnut) oils.
n Match the dressing to the flavor and texture of greens — a delicate taste with tender greens (Boston, bibb, etc.), more intense tastes with strongly flavored greens (romaine, arugula, radicchio, etc.).
n Use a fork, a whisk, a blender — or a clean screw-top jar.
One more thing about those salads: Don’t forget the tomato.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.