Thursday, August 12, 2010

Now Is the Time on Sprockets When We Dance.

Am I dating myself with this reference? I just sat down to tap out this post and it’s all I could think of. Because: Now Is the Time on Porky Dickens When We Eat Tomatoes.


We were talking about tomatoes at dinner the other night and musing how tomatoes probably have the widest spanning good-to-bad range of any food out there. The good are weak in the knees, eyes roll back in your head, change the whole scope of your taste bud spectrum good and the bad are, well, gag inducingly bad, right? So this is the time of year I wait for. When Good Tomatoes are finally plentiful. Tomatoes so good I do karate chops and small dances when I eat them. Yes, that good. So I guess, now is the time when we Dance, or rather, our taste buds dance.


So this is essentially a repeat recipe. Lo siento. In all fairness the one gripe I’ve got about seasonally delightful ingredients such as tomatoes and corn is that the recipes for preparation of same are simple, easy and basic. Because when you’ve got something this good going on the last thing you want to do is jack it up by messing with it. But I will say that a “recipe” that reads: slice tomato, salt, pepper, eat. Doesn’t exactly make for a riveting blog post but whatever.



A word about vinaigrettes: the first thing I ever perfected in the kitchen was basic balsamic vinaigrette. A wise sage once told me that the key to any good vinaigrette is one part vinegar to two parts oil. I can’t remember who said sage was; it might have been my mom, or Martha Stewart, or Rachael Ray. No wait, if it was Big Rach she would have said “two parts EVOO” and then I would have tuned out. So anyways, it doesn’t matter who I learned it from, now you can learn this from me. The first secret to good vinaigrette is this: Every. Single. Good. Salad. Dressing. You. Make. Will. Subscribe. To. This. Ratio. (You can tell I’m serious because of all the periods): 2 parts oil, 1 part acid. For a long time whenever I made vinaigrette I would use a shot glass. One shot vinegar, or lemon juice, two shots oil. But this made a LOT of dressing. I have since scaled it down a bit and thrown measuring at all out the window. I simply eye out my two-to-one ratio.

The second secret to good vinaigrette is emulsification. Formerly, I would blend my vinaigrette with an immersion blender, which works wonderfully if you, like me, aren’t all that handy with whisking and pouring oil evenly at the same time. These days, I combine all my dressing ingredients in a jar, clamp the lid on and shake the ever-loving life out of the thing. This works as well. I find you don’t need the strength of a good whisking wrist or the steady hand for a delicate oil pour. You CAN beat the ingredients into emulsification if you shake the jar hard enough. I call it the “shock and awe” emulsification method (patent pending).


The third secret to a good vinaigrette is twofold: Dijon mustard and sugar. Not too much of either, just a touch. About a quarter to a half teaspoon of mustard, and just one generous pinch of sugar will do. The sugar cuts the acidity of the vinegar or lemon juice and the mustard adds a little tang, a little depth of flavor and helps to thicken the dressing a bit.


Wow, you’ll notice above I said “a word about vinaigrettes” and then I yammered on for three, extremely detailed paragraphs with a lot of unnecessary punctuation. Can you tell I eat a lot of salads? And I feel very strongly about salads being appropriately dressed. And I happen to know a thing or three about vinaigrettes. I could make one in my sleep. So…with that being said, back to the salad:


2-3 ripe tomatoes

1-2 ear(s) of corn, kernels stripped off

Handful of basil leaves, coarsely chopped


1 shallot, peeled and minced

¼ tsp. Dijon mustard

1 part Red Wine Vinegar

Pinch of sugar

Salt and cracked black pepper

2 parts extra virgin olive oil

In a bowl large enough for your salad combine shallot, mustard, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk together ingredients. While whisking drizzle in olive oil slowly to emulsify. (this is the standard means of achieving emulsification, if you would rather skip, use one of the methods above I just didn’t feel like dirtying an extra dish or jar). Add corn to bowl and toss to coat; add tomatoes and chopped basil. Serve immediately with crusty bread for sopping up the extra dressing and tomato juice.


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