Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Bottled vinaigrette salad dressing is great to have on hand to add to a vegetable salad, pasta salad or even for marinating chicken. But knowing how to make your own vinaigrette is a lot less complicated than you would think.

At its most basic level, vinaigrette is just a combination of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Adding mustard is the secret ingredient that will help bind (emulsify) everything together.

To make a basic vinaigrette you need to combine:

  • 1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup of vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • A few grinds of fresh pepper

Mix these four ingredients together and then slowly add:

  • ¾ cup of olive oil

This will make enough for about 6 servings of salad dressing. As long as you haven’t added any fresh herbs, it should keep for about 3 weeks, stored in a jar in the refrigerator. (You will need to give it a good shake before you use it!)

The Equipment

As a first step, you have to decide how you want to go about blending these ingredients together. You could use a bowl and a whisk, a jar, or a blender.

The (clean!) jar method is probably the simplest. Put the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a jar and just shake it up. Add the oil in 3 stages and shake it well after each addition. This will help it stay blended together.

The blender method is basically the same. Put the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in the blender and mix it up really well. Then drizzle in the oil in a slow steady stream. You can remove the inner plug on the blender cover to drizzle in the oil. Some blenders will “spit” back at you when you remove the inner plug. You may have to hold your other hand over the hole leaving just a tiny space open to drizzle in the oil.

If you are making vinaigrette in a bowl with a whisk, you need to make sure the bowl doesn’t slide all over the counter top while you are slowly adding the oil. Unless you have three hands, the solution is to make a collar for the bowl out of a dish towel. Fold a damp dish towel into a log and then into a circle. Sit the bowl on the top of the circle to hold it steady.

Now one hand can hold the whisk while the other hand drizzles in the oil!

The Ingredients

The Mustard: use a nice – preferably French – mustard. A grainy mustard would work just fine as well. (Bright yellow mustard, which is great on Hot Dogs, would work but not taste as good as a French mustard.)

The Vinegar: Red wine vinegar would be the classic choice. You could also try fruit vinegars or herb-infused vinegar. White vinegar would give your vinaigrette too harsh of a flavor. Malt vinegar is never used for a vinaigrette. You can substitute lemon, lime or orange juice for the vinegar.

The Oil: Olive oil would be the preferred choice.

Many people add shallots, dried or fresh herbs, and even poppy seeds to their vinaigrette. Just remember that if you have added shallots or fresh herbs your vinaigrette should be used with in a few days of making it. Cheers!

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Pasta with Lemon and Garlic

print recipe card posted in Main Dishes, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

One of my favorite ways to serve pasta is with olive oil, parmesan cheese, garlic and lemons — and, of course, fresh parsley — which I put on just about everything!

You should always have a few boxes of pasta in the cupboard. It keeps for a long time, and is always good for an emergency meal when you can’t think of anything else to make!

Stock up on pasta when it goes on sale and buy all different shapes and sizes. Be sure to always have some olive oil on hand as well.

For this recipe you really need to use fresh garlic and fresh lemons and fresh parsley. Garlic powder, dried parsley and lemon juice from a jar just won’t cut it in this recipe.

Start cooking your pasta according to the directions on the package.

While the pasta is cooking you need to do 5 things:

Peel and mince 2 cloves of garlic.

Grate about 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese.

Wash 2 lemons. Before juicing the lemons, we need to remove tiny shreds off the peel of the lemon. This is known as lemon zest. You can use a grater or a knife and just cut the zest into really tiny bits.

Be sure to only use the yellow part of the lemon peel. The white part tastes bitter.

Now juice the lemon. We actually need 4 Tablespoons of lemon juice.

Then chop about 1/2 cup of fresh parsley.

Once the pasta is cooked, remove one cup of the cooking water.

Then drain the pasta.

(After we add the other ingredients, the pasta may be too dry. You can add some of the cooking water to help moisten it.)

Using the pot you cooked the pasta in, heat 3 Tablespoons of olive oil.

Add the garlic to the oil and fry it, until you can smell it cooking, about 15 seconds.

Turn off the heat. Add the lemon juice and zest to the pot.

Then add the pasta to the garlic and oil.

Add the chopped parsley.

With a pair of tongs or two spoons toss everything together. If it seems too dry, pour on some of the reserved pasta water.

Serve with lots of parmesan cheese, salt and freshly ground pepper. And of course, garnish with fresh chopped parsley!

Enjoy!

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Jalapenos Stuffed with Sausage

print recipe card posted in Appetizers and Snacks by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

HOT! HOT! HOT! Well maybe not! You can actually control the amount of heat in this recipe for Jalapeno Peppers Stuffed with Sausage in two ways:

  1. The type of sausage you choose
  2. How you clean the peppers

You need just four ingredients needed to make this recipe:

  • 1 and 1/2 pounds of jalapeno peppers (about 18 small to medium)
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound of sausage

Start by softening the cream cheese. Just take it out of the refrigerator, open the wrapping, and let it sit on the counter while you cook the sausage. It will soften on its own!

I chose HOT Italian sausage to make this recipe. It ended up with quite a kick! Choosing sweet Italian sausage or pork sausage would definitely have decreased the amount of heat. Buy whatever sausage you prefer, depending on YOUR taste or that of the people invited to your party.

***

Let’s startcooking!

With a sharp knife, slice through the casing of the sausage.

Remove the skin and add the sausage to a large frying pan that has been pre-heated on medium-high heat.

The sausage needs to get broken up into bits and cooked completely.

One way to break the sausage apart is with a spatula (shown above), but it does not do a great job at breaking apart the meat as it cooks. You could try using a fork (shown below) which works a bit better…

…or a potato masher (below), which actually works the best!

Once the meat is cooked put it into a bowl lined with paper towels.

Once all the fat has drained from the cooked sausage, which will only take a minute or so, remove the paper towels and throw them away.

Add the softened cream cheese and the grated Parmesan cheese.

This needs to get totally mixed together.

If the cream cheese is not soft it will make mixing quite difficult.

It should end up looking like the photo below.

Now for the peppers!

(Please take a moment to review my photo-tutorial on Handling Hot Peppers.)

Wash the jalapenos and cut them in half with a sharp knife.

OK! We’re now ready for the second way to control the heat of your final dish – cleaning the inside of the peppers.

The outside flesh of the peppers contain a lot of flavor. Most of the “heat” is contained in the internal seeds and the membrane that they are attached to.

So, we’re going to remove the seeds and membrane with a knife …

…or a spoon or melon baler.

Even the slightest bit of that white membrane will give these Sausage Stuffed Jalapenos quite a kick!

Fill each jalapeño half with about 1 to 1 ½ Tablespoons of filling. A small pepper will require less filling.

Some of the filled peppers may tip over in the oven. To prevent this, you can “snuggle” or “nestle” them together on the baking sheet. (Be sure to use a baking sheet with sides!)

Bake them in a pre-heated 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) oven for 20 minutes.

You can see how some of the larger ones sort of toppled over. Next time, I am going to try to get smaller jalapeños and be sure to nestle them together on the baking tray so they will remain upright.

I left the top stem on some of them just for presentation purposes.

However, be warned. You don’t eat the stem! (Warn your guests.)

Enjoy!

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