Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Season of Salads
What’s cooking? Herbed Buttermilk Ranch Dressing and more

I love my husband, but I sure do have a great time in the kitchen when he’s gone. I get to try all kinds of weird foods, play in the kitchen late at night, and if I don’t feel like cooking, I might open up a can of Campbell’s Pork and Beans for dinner. Straight out of the can. Mmm-mm. Feels just like my single days in New York.

So tonight, I’m trying a fried tofu recipe from Melissa Clark in last Wednesday’s NY Times. I’m not sure I’m going to like it, but I’ll let you know. The tofu was only $1.48 at my grocery store, so if it’s too strange, I’m out less than a buck fifty.

I’ve been experimenting with condiments this week – mustard and mayo. I know, the grocery stores stock lots of perfectly good mustards and one good mayo (Hellman’s, what else?) on their shelves. But aren’t you ever a bit curious to see what the homemade stuff tastes like?

I started with mustard. And by the way, I have no idea where I got this recipe – it just appeared one day on a Post-It in my kitchen, and in my handwriting. Go figure. In any case, this recipe has egg in it, which surprised me a bit. And more sugar than I would have guessed, but no honey, which I may try next time. Then I tasted it. Wow. Like that head slap Gibbs is always giving DiNozzo on NCIS.

Tangy Mustard

Makes 1½ cups.

4 ounces Coleman’s Dry Mustard
1 cup white vinegar
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Mix together the dry mustard and the vinegar, cover and let sit overnight.

Place the mustard/vinegar in a small saucepan and add the remaining ingredients. Stir until well combined. Set the saucepan over medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Chill.

* * *

Next, I turned my attention to mayonnaise. In one of the many (really, waaay too many) foodie newsletters I get, I saw a recipe for a Japanese cabbage pancake that requires Kewpie Mayonnaise as a topping. This particular mayo is apparently The Rage in Japan. So while I didn’t have much interest in making a cabbage pancake – maybe the next time my hubby goes away – this Kewpie Mayo (for which there was even a recipe) piqued my interest.

According to a few places I checked, Kewpie Mayo is thinner and creamier than Hellman’s, and it’s made with rice vinegar. Hmmm, I said to myself. And the recipe looked easy as pie – easier, in fact, as there’s no crust to make with the mayo. So I tried it. Wow, again – what a difference the rice vinegar makes. Wikipedia lists a slew of dishes it’s used on, like tonkatsu (deep-fried pork) and cold noodle salad, as a dipping sauce for fried seafood, and dabbed on sushi. They even mix it with soy sauce or wasabi for a dip. I’m thinking of trying it with a steamed artichoke this weekend.

One picky reviewer of this recipe (which I found on noted that the actual Kewpie Mayonnaise is made with egg yolk, but no egg white, and a healthy dose of MSG. I still like this version, but will try it without the egg white and with the MSG, and will let you know.

Kewpie-esque on left; Hellman's on right.

Kewpie-esque Mayonnaise

Makes 2 cups.

1 egg at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1¼ cups canola oil
2-3 tablespoons rice vinegar

Crack the egg into the bowl of a food processor and process 1-2 seconds. Add the salt and sugar. With the motor running, add the canola oil in a slow, steady stream.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the motor running, add the vinegar. Refrigerate one hour before using.

* * *

So, flushed with success, I moved on to a salad dressing I’d been meaning to make while I was still able to harvest the requisite herbs from my garden. And – surprise, surprise – the recipe I’d been saving also had mayonnaise as an ingredient. Well, I just happened to have some Kewpie-esque mayo at hand, so I used it in this dressing. Yum. Even with the mayo, this dressing is very light and relatively low calorie because of the yogurt and the buttermilk. I’ve been so happy with it, I’ve had it on salads every day since.

Herbed Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Makes 2 cups.

2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 tablespoons chopped basil
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
juice of half a lemon (2-3 teaspoons)
½ cup mayonnaise (try Kewpie-esque Mayonnaise!)
2 tablespoons non-fat Greek yogurt or light sour cream
1 cup 1% buttermilk
½ teaspoon salt
6 grinds of  freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon honey

Load all ingredients into a food processor or blender and process about a minute, stopping partway through to scrape down the sides. Chill before serving.

* * *

Soon, I’ll have to try ketchup. Any of you ever make your own ketchup? It’s burger time!


  1. Hi Lee! Just wanted to drop by to say that I really enjoyed meeting you at the BlogHer Food food truck excursion. From one finance gal to another, it was a treat to talk biz for just a quick minute :) Hey, if you start selling tickets to that soup party, let me know...sounds amazing! Let me know if you ever make it out my way to San Francisco!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Melissa! I enjoyed that lunch as well. I'm working on a way to have my soup party in Texas, but it's always so warm. ;-)
      Just checked out your blog, and those heart-shaped eggs look like so much fun, I can hardly wait for Valentine's Day. (And when we get there, I'll link back to your blog. Thx for the idea!) Keep in touch...