Tag Archives: condiment

Tangy Honey-Mustard Dressing

2 Jan

2nd January 2015: The crossroads of ‘…ooooh, I mustn’t…’ and ‘…aargh, F#@& it!, I’m gonna eat it…’. If you’re here, right in the epicenter of that diet conundrum, divert your eyes and stop reading now.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt all proud and accomplished for having chopped up a wickedly healthy salad… only to then slather it in 500 calories worth of dressing, with buttery croutons to boot. You’re not alone! If it weren’t for the tang of dressing, I probably wouldn’t be all gung-ho about salad either. As a matter of fact, the creamier the dressing, the easier I find it to eat raw leafy greens, after all, I’m not a goat. Frankly, anyone who proclaims to enjoy salad without dressing is a shameless liar; a Spartan… or a farm animal reincarnate. I’m not above Buddhist philosophies, y’all.
In the face of whimsical diets that promote things like ‘light’ raspberry vinaigrette, creamy honey-mustard dressing may very well be the Beowulf of all salad condiments. In our fridge, however, its beguiling golden hue shines like the Holy Grail…

The other day, I bought a Costco-sized tub of sour cream. I don’t even know how many ounces is in that cradle of tangy deliciousness, but at $3.79 it was practically the same price as a much smaller tub you’d buy at the regular grocery store and that’s all the convincing I needed to heave that sucker into my cargo ship cart. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but it’s safe to assume that my mind wasn’t on any New Year’s resolutions.

With a tangy sour cream base, the dressing below can be spooned straight out of the jar drizzled over salad, but should you feel rebellious, you can use steamed artichoke leaves as a vessel to bring this deliciousness into your gaping mouth as well.

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TANGY HONEY-MUSTARD DRESSING
(Per various Pinterest finds…)
– 1 ½ cups of sour cream (or Greek yogurt, for a ‘lighter’ version)
– ½ cup of mayo
– juice of 2 fresh lemons
– 1 large garlic clove, crushed
– 4 heaping Tbsp of yellow mustard
– 6 Tbsp of honey (or agave syrup)
– salt & pepper, to taste

Add all the ingredients to a large quart-size canning jar, and give it a good shake…

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Stout Beer Vinaigrette with Honey & Garlic

3 Jan

Yes. You read that right. This is a post about beer vinaigrette, because, well, I’m Belgian. Full stop. Beer goes into everything in Belgian cuisine. As matter of national pride, it’s practically a sin not to include beer in your food.

I figured that with the massive volume of salads being eaten nowadays, what with it being nary 3 days into the new year and all, I would contribute a refreshing new take on dressing for those of you who are dead tired of Dijon vinaigrette or plain ole’ ranch. After all, variety is the spice of life, no?!

I really have no specific story attached to this recipe, other than perhaps the incident in which I was caught enjoying a pint whilst cooking and accidentally knocked over my $9.75 bottle dark beer from the Leffe abbey. Besides defiantly dripping from my kitchen counter, it also made in into my bra our salad dressing for the evening, et voila… I firmly believe that this is the fashion in which much culinary greatness is discovered. I mean, how else have we learned to eat stuff like snails? Right?! At some point, someone in medieval times must have looked at those and said: “Yummeth! I shalt grilleth those with alliums!”. Or how did humankind ever figure out which mushrooms were edible and which ones weren’t? And may I remind you that back then, there was no Pepto-Bismol or wet wipes? You’re welcome. No, I think the best recipes come to fruition by simply trying stuff out or, like in this case, purely by accident.

Going against all odds, this earthy vinaigrette is lovely as a dressing for grilled seafood, a potato salad or for more robust salads like a traditional steakhouse salad with spinach, blue cheese and grilled strip loin. It pairs surprisingly well with roasted root vegetables, or more hearty greens like kale. Throw some crumbled bacon in your salad, and this beer vinaigrette is just divine.

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Stout Beer Vinaigrette with Honey & Garlic
(Adapted from unplanned tastiness)
– 1 small bottle (10-11oz) of dark stout beer, preferably a Belgian abbey beer like dark Leffe but Guinness will do as well.
– 1.5 Tbsp of red wine vinegar
– 1.5 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar
– 3/4 cup of walnut oil
– 1-2 Tbsp of honey, to taste
– 2 shallots, minced or very finely chopped
– 1 garlic clove, grated or minced
– salt & pepper to taste
– a pinch of cayenne pepper, if you like things a bit spicy

Open beer, pour in a glass container and allow to de-fizz for an hour or two. Resist urge to drink it.

In a small saucepan, pour flat stout and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer for only a minute or 2-3 to allow alcohol to evaporate a bit, stir honey in beer and cool to room temperature. Alternatively, if you don’t mind having a wee bit of alcohol in your dressing, you can skip “cooking” the beer altogether.

In a small pan, sauté the chopped shallots and minced garlic in a little bit of olive oil or butter until softened. Set aside and let cool.

Combine room temperature beer with shallot mixture and all other ingredients, and whisk well to incorporate everything. Store in a glass or non-reactive container in a cool place, and shake before each use.

Blackberry Balsamic Onion Jam with Bacon

1 Sep

A few years ago, during a random browsing session at Williams-Sonoma, my eye fell on a small jar of balsamic onion spread. With a $10.99 price tag, I decided it was entirely too expensive so I bought it anyway. For a little while I smeared it on anything from bread to crackers and grilled cheese sandwiches, until I could see the glass bottom and went into full-blown panic mode and rationed it as though the end of civilization was nigh.

So when my mom arrived for a visit some weeks later, we picked up a few gorgeous cheeses and a loaf of crusty French bread at the farmers market for lunch one day. As I was setting the table, mom came upon my nearly empty jar of balsamic onion spread, tucked in the back of my fridge, where it was shielded from impulsive midnight snacking. I think she must have seen the frantic expression in my twitching eye, cause she grabbed it and dismissively announced that wherever it came from she was sure they had more. Later that afternoon, one sales rep at Williams-Sonoma in Palos Verdes, CA became employee of the month for a record sale of balsamic onion spread, financed by the ‘Bank of Mom’.

With onions being fairly inexpensive, and fueled by my degree in Business, I figured their profit margin on that drug stuff must be sky-rocketing high, and so I set out on a quest to recreate my precious anything-spread. Only, I’d make it even better. There was some unpalatable trial & error, and a fair amount of spontaneous gagging, but in the end I came up trumps with something that is out-of-this-world delicious. The addition of bacon was real stroke of genius, but you can leave it out if you prefer a vegetarian version.

For your BBQ pleasure, I also smear this deliciousness on a Brioche bun, and top a crusty browned beef patty with some blue cheese, a fried egg and arugula, for a killer-hamburger that has just the right amount of ‘wrong’!

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BLACKBERRY BALSAMIC ONION JAM WITH BACON
(…because bacon makes everything better!)
– 4 slices of thick-cut bacon, sliced into very small pieces
– 2 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
– 1/2 cup of fresh blackberries
– salt and cracked ground pepper, to taste
– 2/3 cup good quality balsamic vinegar (*)
– 1 tsp Dijon mustard
– 2/3 cup cooking sherry
(*) I used a lovely blackberry balsamic vinegar I found at the Torrance farmers market, and it gave this jam an even sweeter & fruitier touch.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon pieces and cook until browned but not crispy, approx. 5-8 min. Remove the bacon from the pan and let it drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Drain off all but 2-3 Tbsp of the bacon grease and then stir in the onions. season with a pinch of salt & pepper, to taste.

Saute the onions for 2 min. then add a splash of cooking sherry, and scrape the browned bits off of the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the blackberries, cover the pot and cook the jam until the onions are soft and brown, and the berries have broken down, approx. 15-20 min.

Stir in a small pinch of cayenne pepper, the balsamic vinegar, mustard, and remaining sherry, and add in reserved bacon. Bring the mixture to a simmer and simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens and is almost completely absorbed, approx. 10 min. The jam should be a dark rich brown at this point.

Allow to cool and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a week.

Kickin’ Chayote & Melon Salsa

28 Aug

I have a confession to make. Until I set foot in the USA, I had only vaguely heard of salsa. Let alone that I knew what it was supposed to taste like. As a matter of fact, the first time I tried it, was at a grungy roadside diner located across the street from my then office in Rockaway, NJ… Let’s just say that it was an overly sweet, jarred disappointment. It wasn’t until I set foot on California soil that my taste buds were properly courted by the smooth Latin lover that is ‘salsa fresca’.

Mom is an adventurous amateur chef, so it baffles me a wee bit as to why I didn’t really hear about salsa until I came to the USA. Frankly, growing up in Belgium and vacationing frequently in sweet Provence, we were surrounded by juicy tomatoes fresh from the vine every late Spring & Summer. When we moved into our new house in the country, mom even planted a few odd tomato plants against a sunny wall we shared with our neighbor. It so happens to be that those tomato plants set off a royal feud with Mr. Grouch, who never got over the fact that our yard was twice the size of his, and who vehemently claimed that watering our tomato plants caused structural damage to his garage’s wall. He was a royal pain in the you-know-what, and I won’t even go into detail about what happened when my soccer ball went over the fence and landed on his prize-winning dahlias. I don’t think the food blogging world could stomach the horror of such atrocity. But we digress… I think the problem with Flemish salsa may have been that things like limes, fresh cilantro and jalapenos – the latter being imported into Belgium and so by default ‘expensive’ – were either not in our family’s budget or not readily available… or mom didn’t care for them, which is the least likely of all three.

Mom is madly in love with fresh salsa & ‘pico de gallo’. During her weeklong California visits, she single-handedly powers through 2-3 family-size (!) containers of the stuff from the ‘salsa man’ at Torrance farmers market. She even engages in pseudo-English conversation with the man, using partial hand gestures and broken soap opera English. (*) She likes his stuff that much! Yes, the salsa man and my mom share a special bond.
(*) Like the time she walked into a grocery store in Spain, intending to buy cat food for the strays, sans knowledge of any Spanish, and resorted to signaling out “cat food” by pointing into her wide-open gaping mouth and uttering ‘meow meow’ to the unassuming store clerk. Per God’s blessing, I wasn’t present for this linguistic embarrassment.

With a great variety of fresh, flavorful salsas readily available here in Southern California year-round, I’ve never been challenged to come up with my own creation. I also don’t own a food processor, an excuse I’ve used far too many times to justify my salsa laziness. Now that I’m trying to live a little healthier with more ‘whole’ foods and fewer manipulated foods, I’m trying to move away from the jarred stuff which often contains ingredients that sound like they could be Klingon. No offense, Trekkie fans! The fresh tomato kind tends to come in the same boring old flavors, and I wanted to try something new. I can’t wait for my mom to be here in October, so she can then tell me in her dry, ‘matter-of-fact’ teacher voice that the tomato stuff from the salsa man is better. I’m fully prepared to embrace that defeat…!

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KICKIN’ CHAYOTE & MELON SALSA
(A Hungry Belgian original)
– 1 chayote squash, peeled & diced very small (*)
– 1/4 honey dew or Galia melon, diced very small
– 1/2 red onion, diced very small
– 1 Serrano chili, seeded and chopped very fine
– juice & zest of 1 large lime
– 1 tsp of agave syrup
– 1/2 tsp of ground cumin
– 1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
– salt, to taste
(*) If you’re not familiar with chayote, see picture below, you should know that they have a crisp, cool flavor similar to cucumber. The flat, almond-shaped pit inside is edible too, but I remove it for this salsa.

Place all ingredients in a bowl, and gently fold together to combine. Let ‘rest’ in the refrigerator for a few hours, so flavors have time to develop and meld beautifully.

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Naughty & Nice Hot Pepper Jelly

9 Aug

My burning love for hot peppers, all pun intended, didn’t fully develop until I hit Californian soil and damn near scorched the skin off my upper lip with a habanero chile salsa, because “how hot can it be?!” , she said with an air of disbelief.

Right. Carry on…

Unlike many Southwest natives, I didn’t grow up with chiles. As a matter of national embarrassment, I don’t even recall ever having seen hot peppers in my Flemish grocery store? Then again, cooking with hot peppers was such an oddity in Belgium in the early 1990’s, that I may have unduly ignored peppers altogether. It’s a dark void in my memory, like that time where I lip-synced Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry like the wolf’ in my bathroom and got caught. Don’t ask. It’s too painful.

After all these years, I’m slowly but surely learning to navigate my way around the many varieties of spicy hot peppers. Occasionally, however, my inner-Sacagawea brazenly surfaces during farmer’s market strolls and I inadvertently end up destroying a Flemish taste bud or two, encouraged by this kind of peppery food porn:

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The idea of a hot pepper jam didn’t even occur to me until my colleague Alex channeled her inner-foodie and excitedly told me about ‘the best’ jam she’s ever eaten! She confessed she could smear it on just about everything… well, maybe not everything. Either way, we made a pact that I would try my hand at recreating her fantastic pepper jelly, if she became a follower on my blog. I’m totally cheap that way.

I know how to make jam as Belgians are big on canning and preserving sunshine, what with our 9 months of rain and all, so I accepted the challenge. This jelly turned out beautifully and so flavorful! And yes, I too will boldly smear this on anything that will hold its deliciousness…

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NAUGHTY & NICE HOT PEPPER JELLY
(Adapted from a recipe by ‘River Cottage Preserves’)
– 1.5 lbs of sweet peppers (red, yellow or orange), approx. 3-4 large
– 3 small scotch bonnet peppers or habanero peppers (*)
– 3 red jalapeno peppers (*)
– 1 medium size red onion
– 1 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
– 2.5 cups of white sugar
– 1/2 cup of dry white wine
– a pinch of red pepper flakes
– a small pinch of saffron
– 1.5 oz of fresh grated ginger
– zest of 2 lemons
– 1.5 oz powdered pectin
(*) you can use any combination of peppers you like. For a few pointers, check out my friend Debi’s blog over at Life Currents)

Chop sweet peppers in half, removing bitter white ribs and seeds. Slice into thin ribbons, then into small dice. Chop onion into very small dice as well. Peel and grate (or finely chop) the ginger.

Scratch whatever itch you may have on your face now, because you’re done touching your face for the next few minutes!

Chop hot peppers in half, remove white-ish ribs and seeds, and chop into very fine dice. Try not to breathe through your nose or touch any sensitive areas, as the capsicum in these babies will avenge you get to you.

In a heavy, non-reactive pan, place sweet & hot peppers, grated ginger and onions and pour apple cider vinegar & white wine over them. Sprinkle pepper flakes on top and slowly bring to a simmer.

When simmering, add saffron, lemon zest and sugar, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil, then add pectin. Boil hard for 6 minutes to activate the pectin. Remove pan from heat and set aside for 20 minutes.

Ladle jam into small glass jars, and let cool… Or alternatively, for a longer shelf-life, process in a water bath or canning machine.

This jam will remain fresh in your fridge for approx. 1 month.

Animal-style Mayonnaise

18 Jul

My Belgian roots seem to trump any American traits I have adopted over the years when it comes to French fries. For instance, I will not settle anymore for plain old non-flavored coffee, but I still like the creaminess of mayo with my steaming hot & crunchy fries. It’s considered an oddity here in ketchup-loving California, but I bet the epicenter of mayo-based casseroles balmy Southern states share my dipping joy.

So when I was introduced to a California institution named ‘In & Out Burger’ by my American family, and was told with much excitement that this red & gold vinyl circus was the Mecca of all hamburger joints, I was highly disappointed there was not a drop of mayonnaise to be had. At the time, I already had a wee bit of a chip on my shoulder as fast food is not exactly my idea of culinary sophistication, so I may or may not have had a an air of superiority about the whole thing. I plead the fifth. Not being able to drown my fast food sorrow with a vat of mayonnaise, probably put me over the edge. “Try the animal sauce…” , Scott proclaimed, “…you’ll like it”. I’m sure I must have looked at him with an air of complete disbelief, but I aim to please and reluctantly bit the corner of a little plastic pouch of animal sauce, and – with some trepidation – squirted some on a ‘test fry’… I swear, I heard the faint sound of violins and saw rosy-cheeked cherubs blowing kisses in my general direction. Honest to God!

I figured animal sauce can’t be that hard to recreate as my taste buds instantly recognized its delicious mayonnaise base. It was just a matter of adding a few things to it.

I listed a recipe for basic mayonnaise here, as well as my own recipe for In & Out’s animal style hamburger sauce.

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BASIC MAYONNAISE
– 2 eggs, yolks only
– 1tsp of white vinegar
– 2 tsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 1 tsp of dijon mustard (not the grainy kind)
– 1/2 cup of safflower oil (or cannola oil)
– 1/2 cup of olive oil (or safflower/cannola or any other oil you like)
– salt & pepper to taste

Since mayo is an emulsion, it’s an important to use room temperature ingredients. If you keep your egg in the fridge, take them out about 30-45 minutes prior to making this mayo and let them warm a bit. When at room temperature, separate the yolks and discard the whites. In regards to the oils, olive oil has amore pronounced flavor then safflower or cannola oil, so use light olive oil or any other light oil if you don;t care for the flavor of olive oil.

In a stainless steel bowl, whisk yolks, mustard and vinegar together until smooth. Add salt & white pepper to taste (using blackpepper will leave little flecks of black in your creamy mayo).

Now here comes the tricky part… You will need both hands, so make sure the bowl on your countertop is secured. You can do so by placing it on top of a non-skid mat, or by using a cold damp towel that will hold your bowl in place whil you whisk.

Adding the oil to your egg-mustard mixture is where things can go wrong. Gently and in a steady motion trickle oil into the egg & mustard mixture one drop at a time, whilst whisking constantly. When the emulsion is beginning to thicken, you can go from droplets to a thin stream and so forth. You will need pretty much all of the oil, but when you see it is getting harder to incorporate the oil, it means you are reaching the limit. If this is the case, stop adding oil as otherwise you risk your mayonnaise separating again. If your mixture is not thickening, you are liking whisking too vigorously so slow down a bit. The pace of whisking should be steady, but neither too fast nor too slow… it’s a learnt art!

When you have achieved a beautifully creamy sauce, add the lemon juice and some more salt & pepper to your taste. Enjoy your homemade mayo!

(*) You can also add herbs to flavor your mayo, such as finely chopped fresh tarragon for a French twist, minced garlic for a traditional aioli or a few drops of sriracha sauce for a spicy fiery mayo. The possibilities are endless.

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ANIMAL SAUCE
(adapted from In & Out Burger)
– 1/2 cup of mayo
– 3 tsp of ketchup (for the recipe, look here)
– 6 tsp of pickle relish
– 1.5 tsp of distilled white vinegar
– 1.5 tsp of white sugar

Whisk all ingredients together and enjoy on a hamburger bun with your favorite hamburger, cheese, lettuce, tomato & onions! Yum!

Omoe Jozefa’s homemade mustard

5 Jul

Since I posted a recipe for homemade ketchup yesterday, it’s only befitting that I would post one for mustard today. After all, ketchup & mustard belong together like Siegfried & Roy. Seperate them, and – well – things are just not right.

While it’s not a Belgian invention, mustard is another one of those Belgian staples. It’s served alongside everything. If you hail from a small Flemish country town like I do, you surely remember the annual Summer ‘Breugel Feesten’ where you are traditionally presented with a plate of diced gouda & paté of pheasant or wild boar, served alongside a bowl of zesty ‘cornichons & ajuintjes’, tiny little pickled dill gerkins & onions… all to be washed down with a nice dark Leffe ‘van ‘t vat’ (Leffe beer on tap).

Mustard is ridiculously easy to make, albeit a bit time consuming as it requires some planning ahead. You’ll find many mustard recipes online, but the basic recipe below comes from my very own grandma Jozefa, bless her soul. She made sure that I understood the importance of using non-reactive utensils and unsuccesfully taught me the virtue of being patient. Mustard is really nothing more than a combination of ground (or powdered) mustard seed and some sort of liquid, blended together with any flavorings you fancy.

There’s a few tips I can pass along to you:

  • For a spicy and flavorful mustard, always use a combination of yellow, brown and/or black mustard seed. Yellow seed is fairly mild and – when used alone – typically yield a ‘flat’ or very mild mustard. For a bolder flavor, you need to add some black mustard seed.
  • To change the flavor, experiment by swapping liquids (beer, champagne, white wine…) and adding additional flavorings (tarragon leaves, honey…)
  • When adding the liquids to the ground mustard seed, the temperature of the liquid makes a difference too: hot liquids yield a more mild mustard whereas cold liquids give it more kick or bite.
  • The longer mustard ‘sits’, the milder it gets. Don’t be alarmed if your mustard tastes too spicy right after you made it, it’ll definitely ‘calm down’ in a few days to a week.

HOMEMADE MUSTARD – THE BASICS  (yields approx. 5oz of mustard)
– 2oz of mustard seed (I use even quantities of yellow, black & red or brown mustard seed)
– 3.5 fl oz of white wine vinegar (or champagne vinegar)
– 3.5 fl oz of water
– pinch of salt, to your liking
– pinch of sugar or 1 tsp of honey, if you like your mustard a bit sweet

Place the mustard seed in an airtight glass (or non-reactive) jar with the water and vinegar. Shake well and let sit for 24-48 hours.
In a food processor (or with mortar & pestle), pulverize the soaked seeds until you get a nice creamy paste. This takes a bit of time, so be patient. For a more grainy mustard, blend less. For a creamier mustard, keep on blending until you achieve the desired creaminess. Add a bit more water one tbsp at a time if it all turns out a bit too grainy and dry. Also, homemade mustard is not quite as ‘yellow’ in color as store-bought mustard. If you fancy that yellow color, add a dash of kurkuma for color.

BEER-THYME MUSTARD
Use basic recipe above, but replace water & vinegar with 4.5oz of full-bodied red or amber ale (or stout), and 2.5oz of champagne vinegar. Once blended, add 1-2 tsp of finely chopped fresh thyme leaves.

HONEY-DILL MUSTARD
Use basic recipe above. When the mustard is blended to your desired creaminess, add a 1-2 tbsp of honey and a whopping tbsp of chopped dill.

LEMON-TARRAGON MUSTARD
Use basic recipe above. When blended, add 1-2 tsp of fresh lemon zest and 1 tbsp of finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves

ROSEMARY MUSTARD
Use basic recipe above. When blended, add 2 tbsp of very finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Homemade mustard lasts approx. 1 month in an airtight container in your refrigerator. Before using, allow it to sit for approx. 5 days so the ‘fire’ dies down a bit and the flavors have a chance to blend together.

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