The one night they were not out at jazz clubs in Manhattan, our french guests, Marie-Claude and Guy, prepared a delicious vinaigrette to serve with salad and their pork dijonnaise. While we hovered, trying to write down exact amounts used, Guy reminded us that making a vinaigrette is like jazz – there is room for improvisation.
In this recipe, the amounts are less important than the technique. The mustard and vinegar to olive oil ratio will depend on your taste. The secret here is to add the olive oil slowly while whisking so a proper emulsion is formed.
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
6-8 tablespoons olive oil
fresh parsley, chopped
Whisk together the vinegars, lemon juice, dijon mustard and garlic to create a base. Drizzle olive oil into the mixture slowly while simultaneously whisking to create an emulsion where the olive oil suspends itself in the vinegar. At the end, add parsley, salt and pepper to taste. You should end up with a creamy dressing.
Here’s a wonderful recipe from Tanya, a neighborhood mom, that’s a simple alternative to mashed or plain roasted potatoes. The apples provide a pleasant sweet surprise. The other surprise? The adults in our family loved this recipe even more than the kids.
Preheat oven to 400F. Chop potatoes and apples into cubes. The larger the cube, the longer it will take to cook. Also you may want to make your apple cubes larger than your potato cubes because the apples will take less time to cook. We diced our apples and potatoes to about 1/2 inch square. Toss cubed apples and potatoes with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place on shallow baking sheet (with sides) in oven for 20 minutes. At 20 minute point, open oven (be careful of steam coming out!) and stir potatoes and apples so that they can cook evenly. Close oven and cook for 20 minutes more.
Tanya suggests you can also add sliced onions to the mix before putting it in the oven but that if you do, make sure to pack the potatoes and apples close to each other because otherwise the onion will dry out – it needs the moisture from the apples and potatoes to cook properly. If you don’t have the proper amount of potatoes or apples, don’t worry, a 1:3 ratio was about right for us but this is a very forgiving recipe.
Fennel is a crunchy, slightly anise-flavored vegetable. Seeds from fennel often give italian sausages their licorice-y flavor and have traditionally been used to make absinthe. The bulb of the fennel plant (the white round part at the base) has a fainter anise flavor than the seeds so it may suit your palate even if you don’t like licorice. It is best enjoyed from fall through spring.
The cold winter weather brings to mind hearty baked dishes so we recently tried using fennel in a standard cauliflower au gratin. The fennel offers a subtle additional dimension to the dish. Enjoy!
1/4 cup butter
1 head cauliflower, cut into individual florets
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 cup chopped fronds from the fennel bulb
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded Comte cheese (ask at the cheese counter for a similar cheese to subsititute!)
2/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated aged Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. While oven is preheating, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the cauliflower in the buttered skillet for approximately 4 minutes. Add sliced fennel and saute an additional 4 or 5 minutes. You want the fennel to be slightly tender. Remove from heat. Sprinkle cauliflower and fennel with flour, salt and nutmeg. Toss in the fennel fronds and mix. Place mixture into a 2 quart glass baking dish (8×8 works). Pour cream over fennel/cauliflower mixture and sprinkle with breadcrumbs, gruyere and parmesan. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes or until the top is brown and crispy.