Thursday, November 30, 2006

A DETAILED NOTES ON SALAD DRESSINGS

Introduction:

I have never believed that to enjoy motoring one has to be a Grand Prix winner or that to enjoy boating one must have been one of the first three in the Whitbread Round-the-World Race.

On more or less the same terms, I see no reason against giving information about cookery even if one wasn't born a five-star chef. Quite simply, I have a passion for good cooking, whether it be a simple snack or a wickedly elaborate gourmet dinner.

Since oils, vinegars and seasonings are the basic ingredients of any salad dressing, most of the notes is dedicated to the importance of their numerous roles, along with other relevant information. I also felt it would be helpful to list a few useful utensils as well as some basic ingredients for the storecupboard. The remainder of the book is dedicated to the recipes themselves, including different dressings and mayonnaises.

I hope you have as much enjoyment reading and using this notes as I have had writing it.


UTENSILS

This is a complete list of the utensils used for the recipes in this notes. Many are everyday items kept in the kitchen anyway, so it is unnecessary to stock up with even more expensive equipment. However, certain utensils, such as an oil pourer, liquidiser and blender, are good investments because they save time, and in doing so, make the recipes easier to follow and more fun.


Rock salt and black pepper mills Salt and pepper are used in most of the recipes so it is worth investing in good grinders.

Chopping board A wooden chopping board prevents the work surface being damaged by sharp knives.

Collection of screw-top jars Just the job for shaking ingredients and keeping salad dressings in.

Garlic crusher Try to find one which empties the pulp easily as they are less messy.

Hand or battery-operated whisk An invaluable piece of equipment used in many of the recipes.

Knives Make sure they are sufficiently sharp to cope with extra-fine slicing and chopping.

Lemon squeezer Buy one with a guard to prevent the pips falling into the dressing.

Liquidiser or blender Either or both will definitely save time, energy and effort !

Measuring jug Buy a jug which indicates metric and imperial measurements clearly.

Special oil pourer or a long, slim funnel connected to a cork which fits into the neck of the bottle - a must in any kitchen and invaluable when making mayonnaise. Obtainable from a good kitchen shop.

Pestle and mortar A quick and easy way to crush a small amount of herbs, spices, garlic, black peppercorns or rock salt, for example, allowing the full flavour of the ingredient to be released.

Plastic chopping board Use it to chop garlic and any ingredient that stains or has a strong smell.

Selection of bowls A variety of shapes and sizes is always useful for mixing ingredients.

Salad bowl There's a wonderful selection available, ranging from wood to brightly coloured ceramics and glass. Don't buy anything too small - it's maddening when tossing the salad and the leaves keep falling out.

Spatula A useful implement; just the job for scraping the last drops of mayonnaise out of the bowl!

Wooden spoons They are less abrasive than metal spoons.


The Storecupboard:

Many of the ingredients used in these recipes form part of the everyday storecupboard.
There are others which are an extravagance to keep just on the off-chance they might be needed; some which deteriorate quickly and many that are best fresh anyway. The following list of ingredients has been specially compiled so that at least fifty recipes can be made without a trip to the shops!

Oil
Store in a cool, dark place. Olive oil, walnut oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil.

Vinegar
Keep tightly sealed, away from the light. White wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar rice vinegar.

Mustard
Mustard will last longer in the fridge. English mustard, Dijon mustard, grain mustard, gree herb mustard.

Salt and Pepper
Store whole black peppercorns in a dry place. Salt does not require airtight storage but it does absorb water mix with a few grains of rice to keep it dry. Black peppercorns, green peppercorns, rock salt, table salt.

Paste
Paste will last indefinitely as long as the pots are not opened. Once open, cover and use as quickly as possible.
Green olive paste, black olive paste, chilli paste, red pepper paste, horseradish paste, curry paste, tapenade.

Sauces
Keep out of direct sunlight. Soya sauce, tabasco sauce, pesto sauce, oyster sauce, Angostura bitters.

Nuts and Seeds
Once the packet has been opened, store in an airtight container. Flaked almonds, pine kernels, walnuts, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seeds.

General Ingredients
Lime pickle, curry powder, small tin of anchovy fillets, small jar of black olives, small jar of green olives, small jar of capers, jar of small gherkins, horseradish relish, tin or jar of red peppers, clear honey, muscovado sugar, redcurrant jelly.

In the Fridge
Plain yoghurt, fromage frais or creme fraiche, eggs.

Fruit and Vegetable Bowl
Limes, lemons, oranges, garlic, shallots, red chilli.
Window Box Selection
Tarragon, chives, parsley, mint, dill, basil, chervil, coriander

1.OILS 2.VINEGARS 3.SEASONINGS


OILS

Good quality oil has the most wonderful taste in the world and is one of the most important ingredients for mayonnaise and salad dressings. The best way to learn about oil is to experiment and sample oils from different countries, for example Greece, France, Spain and Italy. Each oil not only looks and tastes different but has its own individual character.


Where did olive oil originate? Olive oil came from Asia Minor and the Mediterranean. The olive tree was known to be cultivated in Syria and Palestine in 3000 BC.

What does extra virgin oil mean? It is the best quality olive oil produced from the 'first pressing'. This is a method where fresh ripe olives are 'cold-pressed' (i.e. lightly pressed) to extract the very best oil. The taste of extra virgin oil is subtle and fruity and the colour ranges from pale yellow to green.

When is extra virgin olive oil used? It is used primarily to add a wonderful fruity taste and aroma to salad dressings. However, in the Mediterranean region olive oil often takes the place of butter.

Does olive oil have any nutritional value? It is high in monounsaturated fats and it has been proved that where there is a high consumption of olive oil, there is a low incidence of heart disease.

What is the best way to store olive oil? Store the oil in a cool, dark place, preferably out of the sun.

How to recognise oil that is 'off'? It has a distinct rancid smell. Olive oil will keep in a cool, dark place for 2-3 years but once opened use within 1 or 2 months. Walnut oil is best kept in the refrigerator as it deteriorates more quickly.

If you store olive oil in the fridge, it can solidify or turn cloudy. Can this be rectified? Either leave the bottle in a warm room or run it under the hot tap and it will soon clear. This process will not affect the taste or the quality of the oil.

Why are some olive oils greener or darker than others? The colour of the oil is affected by the soil and the climate of the area in which it grows. Green oil goes yellow with age.

Where do the strongest flavoured olive oils come from? They tend to come from the hottest regions of the Mediterranean.

Is there a good time to buy olive oil? In the Mediterranean olive oil is produced between December and February. As a general rule there is no reference to the year it is bottled; however, some small estates put the date on the label.

Which is the best way to choose an olive oil? Experiment it is the only way to discover and learn about the various tastes. As with wine, the price and the name on the label are indicative of the quality. Cheap olive oil has little flavour; try sunflower oil instead.

Which is the best olive oil to use for salad dressings? Extra virgin olive oil - buy it in large cans, it's far more economical.

How to make flavoured olive oil? Herbs and spices can be added to flavour oil. Left in the bottle, they look very decorative.

What is the advantage of using flavoured oils? They provide a quick method of adding a particular taste to dressings.

How to make garlic flavoured oil? Add four or five garlic cloves to 1 litre (1 3/4 pint) of olive oil.

When are vegetable, sunflower or groundnut oils used in a dressing? Other oils are used in a salad dressing when price is a consideration. Alternatively, it can be a matter of taste.

Why are some oils so expensive to buy? One factor is the time it takes to pick the olives. They are harvested in the winter and usually picked by hand. Each tree produces around 8 kg (18 lb) of olives and it takes 5kg (11 lb) of olives to make 1 litre (1 3/4 pint) of oil, so it is a painstaking affair.


VINEGARS

There are many different types of vinegar, each with its own individual strength, flavour and quality. Vinegar is one of the most important ingredients in a dressing and should be used with respect, otherwise it can overwhelm the flavour of a salad.



What does the word vinegar mean? It means 'sour wine'. The term derives from the French vin aigre.

Where did vinegar originate? In the wine-growing areas of the Mediterranean. In all probability, vinegar was discovered by accident when wine was left in the hot sun and went sour. It was originally used for cleaning metals and for preserving fruits and vegetables.

How is vinegar made? By subjecting alcohol to heat, air and bacteria.

Where does wine vinegar come from? Some of the best wine vinegars come from France.

When is white wine vinegar used? It is almost always used in recipes requiring wine vinegar.

When is red wine vinegar used? When a stronger flavour is required, as red is stronger than white.

How long does vinegar keep and how should it be stored? Vinegar will keep for several years although it starts to lose freshness and colour with age - this applies particularly to herb or fruit flavoured vinegars. Store in an airtight container, away from the light.

How can you tell the quality of vinegar? Quite simply by the taste and the price!

What is balsamic vinegar, and where does it come from? For centuries balsamic vinegar was the well-kept secret of Modena in Italy, and was only produced commercially in 1966. It has a thick, rich, dark-brown appearance and is fruity and sweet. However, balsamic vinegar should be used sparingly because it is very strong. Good balsamic vinegar is expensive - beware of cheaper varieties as these are often diluted with an inferior quality vinegar to lower the price.

How many different types of vinegar are there? The main vinegars are wine vinegar, grain vinegar and rice vinegar.

When is malt vinegar used? Use it with fish and chips or for pickling, but not in a dressing because it is far too strong. Malt vinegar is naturally colourless; colour is achieved by adding caramel.

What effect will flavoured vinegar have on a salad dressing? It will enhance the salad by flavouring it with the taste of the herb or fruit used in the vinegar.

Which vinegar goes best with which oil? Any good quality vinegar goes well with a good quality olive oil.

How to make herb-flavoured vinegar? Add a few sprigs of fresh herbs to white wine vinegar and leave for several weeks - the time can vary so keep tasting. Strain into clean containers and seal tightly. Leave the herbs in the bottle for a pleasing visual effect.

Can you use dried herbs to flavour vinegar? They can be used, but the taste is inferior compared with fresh herbs.

Can fresh fruit be used to flavour vinegar? Yes, strong tasting fruits such as raspberries produce the best flavours.

How to make fruit flavoured vinegar? Use white wine vinegar with fresh ripe fruit. For example, combine 500g (1 lb 1 1/2oz) raspberries with 1.25 litres (2 1/4 pints) white wine vinegar. Place in clean jars and leave to steep in a warm place for several weeks. Shake the jars occasionally. Then strain the mixture or, alternatively, leave the fruit in the vinegar. Pour into clean bottles, label and seal.

What flavoured vinegars are available commercially? The list is endless but here are some examples: tarragon, garlic, dill, herb, mint, rosemary, lemon, peach, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and redcurrant.


SEASONINGS

MUSTARD is a hot spice which derives from the cabbage family. Black and brown mustard plants produce small round seeds that have a strong flavour, whilst white mustard, which has large yellow seeds and is more commonly seen in Mediterranean areas, is far less pungent.

When was mustard first used? It probably first graced the tables of the ancient Egyptians in 2000 BC. Pope John XXII employed a cousin from Dijon as his personal moutardier in 1316, and during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries mustard became very fashionable with about a hundred different varieties available for consumption.

How is mustard made? Mustard is made by a simple process which entails soaking the grains and then grinding them into a paste. If a smooth mustard is required, the husks are removed, then salt and vinegar are added to flavour and preserve the paste.

How best to store mustard? Both dry and prepared mustard will keep unopened for about two years. Once opened, put prepared mustard in the refrigerator and dry mustard in a dark, dry place.

Why are some prepared mustards bright yellow? This is due to the addition of turmeric, often used to give flavour and colour.

What are the different strengths of mustard? Basically, all mustards are one strength, but some are extra hot.

What is flavoured mustard? It is mustard flavoured with either strong herbs or spices and there are hundreds of different varieties available in supermarkets and delicatessens.

What effect does mustard have on a salad dressing? Apart from adding flavour, mustard is an emulsifier. It stabilizes mayonnaise, and in a salad dressing it holds the oil and vinegar together.

How many different varieties of mustard are available today? Probably thousands! Amongst the most popular are: American mustard - bright yellow and sweet, Bordeaux mustard mild, Dijon mustard - strong, but milder than English mustard, English mustard - mild or very strong, German mustard - dark and mild, Moutarde de Meaux - mild, wholegrain mustard.

SALT was once valued so highly that it was used as an offering to God. Today it is a relatively cheap commodity and its role is decidedly more practical. Salt is used to season and preserve food, but it also acts as a precious nutrient to the body.

Where does salt come from? It comes either from the sea, where it is obtained by evaporation in salt pans, or it is excavated from mines and then purified for use.

What is salt? Salt is a preservative and can be used in a dry state or mixed with water to make brine. There are two varieties of salt: rock salt and sea salt.

Which is the best salt to use in salad dressings? This is a personal choice but many people believe rock salt is the best because it has a good, pure flavour.

Why do we use salt in cooking? Salt has an affinity with water and brings out the flavour of the food.

Which is the best way to store salt? Store in a warm, dry place. To prevent dampness, mix a few grains of rice with the salt.

Which salt has the best flavour? It is said that untreated rock salt, which is produced all over the world, has the best flavour.

What is table salt? It is finely ground rock or sea salt.

How can too much salt in a dressing be rectified? Adjust with lemon juice, vinegar or sugar. Add a small amount at a time.

What is sel gris? It is a coarse grey salt used mainly in France.

What is unrefined salt? It is a product not dissimilar to sel gris and is grey/black in colour. It should be ground in a pestle and mortar and is quite often damp when sold.

Is it best to buy expensive, finely packaged salt? No, although Maldon salt is excellent and has a lovely 'salty' taste.

Which is the strongest, sea or rock salt? Sea salt is definitely more powerful than rock salt, so use less.

PEPPER, the king of spices, was at one time worth its weight in gold. It comes from the plant Piper Nigrum and today accounts for one-quarter of the world's spice trade, India being the foremost producer.

When was pepper first recorded? Around the fourth century BC. Its Sanskrit name was Pippali.

How does pepper grow? Black or white pepper is the dried fruit of a tropical vine, native to India.

Which is the best way to store peppercorns? Store dried peppercorns in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. The same applies to ground pepper, but the keeping time is shorter.

What are green peppercorns? These are unripe, fresh berries which are preserved in bottles or cans.

Why are some peppercorns black? They are unripe green peppercorns which are left to ferment for a few days before being sun-dried.

Why are black peppercorns so popular? Freshly milled black peppercorns emit a wonderful aromatic fragrance which immediately enhances the flavour of food.

What are white peppercorns? They come from ripe red berries which, after harvesting, are soaked in water to remove the outer skin. Not as strong as black pepper, white pepper is generally used to complement light-coloured foods.

How many different types of peppercorn are there? There is actually only one pepper berry. The strength and flavour varies depending where the plants are grown and the drying method.

How to rectify an over-peppered dressing? This is a difficult one; if it really is awful, nothing can be done so throw the mixture away and start again. Otherwise, adjust it with sugar or honey, depending on the flavour of the basic ingredients.

What is the advantage of using ground pepper? None whatsoever unless a pepper mill is unavailable.

How to crush peppercorns? In a pestle and mortar.
Alternatively, put them in into a strong polythene bag and crush with a rolling pin.


PASTES are an innovative, labour-saving way of buying strong, concentrated flavourings. One spoonful is usually enough to add sufficient extra taste to a dressing or mayonnaise.

What is a paste and when is it used? It is a vegetable, fruit, fish or meat puree, which can be used to add flavour.

How long can a paste be stored? It will keep indefinitely but once the jar or tin has been opened, store it in the refrigerator. To prevent air from reaching the paste, cover the surface with either olive or sunflower oil and it will keep for several years.

Where do pastes come from? The raw ingredients come from all over the world. However, many wonderful pastes such as artichoke, sun-dried tomato, mushroom and aubergine are made in the Mediterranean area.

Which is the most popular flavour? There is a wonderful variety of pastes available in supermarkets and delicatessens. Green or black olive paste is probably the most popular. Ideally olive paste should be made from just one variety of olive to distinguish the type.

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