This weekend we visited E’s family for yet another Christmas. Yes, it’s the last weekend in January and we’re still celebrating Christmas. This was our third go-round for Christmas. We did one on Christmas day with E’s parents and his family that lives near us, one with my family at the start of January, and finally one with his parents, sister and her boyfriend this weekend. Thankfully, I think we can officially say the holiday season is over now. E’s family lives in Iowa, so it’s a bit of a trip for us – especially with Little K. My mother-in-law always makes sure we’re well fed when we’re there, lots of rich and super-yummy food. For example, today we had pancakes (a phenomenal recipe, which I hope to review here one day) and sausage for breakfast at 10 (thank you Glen!), then at noon we had ribs, corn, mashed potatoes, bread, salad, turkey, and cheesy California vegetables (Thank you Lori!). Holy moly. I need a Tums.
Well we left just after lunch and were plunged right into the middle of this:
We’re still in a winter weather advisory until tomorrow morning at 6am. Blech. I usually love snow, but driving across the state in it isn’t my cup of tea. What started off as rain turned into freezing rain, turned into glare ice, turned into snow, which turned into a mess on the roads. We saw something like 20 cars in the ditch on a 150 mile trip. Thankfully E maneuvered the roads masterfully and Little K slept the whole way home. Needless to say though, by the time we got home I was hungry, uninspired, and craving something light and green.
I decided to get out a Christmas present from my sister’s boyfriend: Modern Sauces. I’ve looked through this book a half a dozen times trying to find something that I was competent enough to cook and included ingredients I already had in the house. I had come up empty, until now. I decided to make E and I a spinach salad with Mellow Garlic-Basil Vinaigrette. I don’t know about you, but most of my meals are decided around what I have in the fridge that is the oldest. Basil and spinach starting to get a little wilted? OK, what can we make with those two ingredients?! Most of the recipes in the Modern Sauces cookbook seems to have at least one or two ingredients that I’d have to run out to the store to get (who keeps crimini mushrooms on hand, honestly?), but this recipe I had covered.
Great flavor. I served it on spinach with feta and pine nuts.
Ease to Prepare:
This was kind of an involved recipe, for a very small amount of dressing. The flavor was incredible, so it’s worth it if you have the time. Little K was already in bed, so I felt able to do this, but if it had been an hour earlier we would have been having hot dogs and mac and cheese.
Which parts were tough? That’s hard to say. Looking back at it now, it doesn’t seem like anything was really all that difficult – and it didn’t require constant attention, which is nice. I think it was more that there were a few steps that the cookbook made seem like a priority, and it stressed me out a little. Like letting the garlic brown or squeezing the basil leaves. My garlic browned and it was still amazing. Or whisking the two parts together at the end. Mine wasn’t “creamy,” but it looked like the typical vinaigrette. I spent like 60 seconds pouring the two together and keeping them mixed. My adaptation that I’m linking to here doesn’t put as much emphasis on things and I hope that helps.
Quality of Instructions:
I had a bit of trouble with this recipe. The recipe said to not let the garlic brown, I really don’t know how you couldn’t. I had my burner on low (as in, the lowest setting before it’s just turned off) and the garlic still browned. I misunderstood the bit about removing the pan from the heat before adding the basil and had it on the burner for a while, which ended up crisping my poor basil leaves. It still turned out fine, but maybe the flavor was different than it should have been?
One huge plus to this cookbook – I love that she includes quick substitutions. I didn’t have a fresh lemon, no problem – she said orange zest would work fine! I didn’t have white wine vinegar – balsamic vinaigrette works just as well. (I actually used a mix of balsamic, red, and rice wine – I feel like balsamic is pretty domineering, so the rice wine helped to cut that flavor a little.)
Oh my gawd. SO GOOD! I’m a garlic fanatic, so I really let the garlic diffuse into this dressing, the basil was definitely second fiddle. Also, Martha Holmberg says “Garlic-Basil Vinaigrette” and doesn’t mention the lemon or the orange. I found that the orange is a pretty heavy flavor in the dressing, and it’s phenomenal. It paired awesomely with pine nuts and feta on our spinach salad.
One pan, a small bowl, a grater, and a whisk. Really not bad at all, though it’s a pain to clean the zester. Don’t you hate how the orange embeds itself on to the tool? The worst is when you think you got it clean and you get it out to make something and see old orange rind stuck on it. FAIL.
This recipe doesn’t use a lot of pricey ingredients or anything, but it doesn’t make a lot. So you end up using a whole container of basil and a dash of a few things I would guess most kitchens have on hand, but not ending up with very much to show for it. This would be a one dollar rating, except for how small the final product is.