Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Real Ranch Dressing with Fresh Herbs

Like all good Midwesterners I have consumed my fair share of ranch dressing in my life. I always make fun of David putting Tapatio on everything I cook, but honestly the ranch dressing thing is so much worse. Don't get me wrong it's not like you move to Alaska and suddenly you don't like ranch dressing anymore. The thing is that there just isn't a giant bowl of the stuff served at every meal. We eat a lot of salad at home, but it is so much easier just to whip up a quick vinaigrette. Every once in a while, just like I get those cravings for the stuffing that comes in the red box, I also like a little ranch dressing. Now that it is no longer one of my daily food groups the commercial dressing tastes terribly salty to me. Even the powder that you mix yourself (yes I used to call that homemade dressing) is too much at half strength. Real homemade Ranch Dressing with fresh herbs has been on my cooking bucket list for a while. I have been collecting different recipes and techniques hoping to find something flavorful, but not at all salty.
The final result wasn't nearly as difficult to make as I thought it would be using scissors to snip the herbs and an immersion blender to mix everything up. Although I was skeptical about the cayenne pepper, in the end it is essential to give the dressing that nice ranch-like bite. Dare I say it tastes even better than the powdered stuff in the packet? They may revoke my Midwest passport!
Feel free to adjust this recipe to your taste. I added a little more dill and lemon juice than most recipes called for to give it that nice ranch tang.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wild Blueberry Margarita on the Rocks

Every summer I seem to have one cocktail that I lean towards. Last summer it was many variations of the mojito. This summer it has been margarita time. This isn't anything unusual, I have been a lifelong (adult life anyway) margarita fan. The salt is key. I'm also a big fan of salt. Next to my stove I have three jars of various sea salt. A few weeks ago Laurie Constantino tweeted about Alaska Pure Sea Salt. I promptly checked out the Alaska Pure Sea Salt web page. As soon as I saw wild blueberry salt I knew I had to have some. Some people might wonder what to do with blueberry salt, but not me. I knew immediately that it would be reserved for margaritas. Then it was just a matter of waiting for the blueberries to ripen.
In the meantime I had been enjoying the margarita recipe that was posted on White on Rice Couple's blog earlier this year. Instead of Triple Sec, Cointreu, or Grand Marnier it uses orange bitters. I have always found the balance to be a a bit off in the traditional version on the rocks. This Margarita is very smooth.
When it finally came time to make blueberry margaritas I originally thought the only way to go would be a blended version with blueberry puree. I knew it would look pretty, but I wasn't sold on it as my blueberry drink of choice. Then in a simple aha moment I thought why not adjust my new favorite recipe to include blueberry simple syrup? It was perfect the first time around. I'll warn you that the orange bitters are not cheap ($9 a bottle in Fairbanks at Gavora's), but they are a whole lot cheaper than a bottle of Triple Sec. One small bottle of bitters has lasted through a Cinco de Mayo party and a whole summer of Margarita drinking.
Also, if you don't have a cocktail shaker you can use a Mason jar. I have been doing this for years, but I recently supported a Kickstarter campaign to turn my canning jar into a fancy cocktail shaker. The campaign has been very successful and you still have a few days if you want to get your very own Mason Jar Cocktail Shaker.
I just picked up some lavender from the Farmer's Market today. I'm thinking about whipping up a batch of blueberry lavender simple syrup for the next round. Cheers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Berry Simple Syrups

It's been a pretty cold and gloomy summer in Fairbanks until recently. It's only when the weather gets really warm and the mosquitos start to die down that I enjoy sitting out on my deck with a cocktail. Last summer I went through several batches of rhubarb simple syrup and the drink of choice was the rhubarb mojito. With only about a cup or so of berries and a vacation just around the corner, I decided to make a couple quick batches of berry simple syrup for future cocktails. You can swap out your berry simple syrups for any regular simple syrup in a cocktail recipe. Just imagine the next time a friend comes over you can offer them their favorite cocktail in blueberry, cloudberry, or rhubarb! You can also add an ounce or so of simple syrup to plain soda water for a delicious wild berry soda. Pretty much any kind of berries will work in this recipe. I'm looking forward to trying a raspberry version soon. If you only have a small bit of several different berries you could also try a mixed berry version that I bet would be quite delicious. Later this week I will also share my favorite blueberry margarita recipe of this summer.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rosemary Roasted Beet Salad with Bacon

Where does the summer go? I have noticed it is already getting darker at night. Last weekend I crawled into bed around 11:00 p.m. and wanted to read for a bit,  and I had to turn the light on. These photos were taken between 9-10 p.m., a totally normal time for us to eat this time of year. In December there is good chance I would be sound asleep by 10:00, certainly not just sitting down to dinner.
Despite the fact that I haven't posted much this summer, I still think about this space a lot. I'm always book marking recipes and trying to figure out what direction I can take this site, and mostly I'm trying to figure out a better way to fit it into my busy schedule. I really miss being here.
For example, I have been working on this post since July 22nd. David and I took a drive to 229 Parks, a restaurant just south of Denali National Park to celebrate my birthday. We had a great meal. It took me forever to decide what to order off the menu though. They had a lot of small plates that sounded delicious along with some great dinner entrees, I wanted one of everything...plus dessert! It was my birthday after all.
The one thing on the menu that I knew I HAD to have was the beet salad: Salad Greens tossed in a Cider Thyme Vinaigrette and topped with Rosemary Roasted Beets, Honey Crisp Apples, Candied Nuts, Bacon, and Chèvre.
Then after one or two bites of the salad, I knew I would have to try an re-create it at home. I love the puzzle of deconstructing a dish and trying to figure out what is in it, then putting it back together in my own kitchen. This one took four tries. The dressing was the challenging part, but I finally got it right.
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