Friday, April 24, 2015

Ranch Dip Spice Mix

So far, I've made two recipes from Milk Bar Life by Christine Tosi. One was a lemon bar recipe that started with a box of lemon cake mix.

And then there was this herb and spice mix for making a ranch dip.

Of the two, I have to say that this ranch dip mix is the one I'm going to make more often. It's just more ... versatile. It can be used to make a dip for vegetables - or for chips, too, I suppose. It can be used to make a salad dressing. And Tosi said that she uses it as a dry rub on chicken and she adds it to beans when she's cooking them.

I could see that this could become an all-purpose seasoning for vegetables, sprinkling onto popcorn, mixing into mashed potatoes, or adding to soups or stews.

Aside from desserts, I can't think of too many places it wouldn't work.

I'll probably be posting the lemon bar recipe a bit later. It's worth having in your back pocket for those times when you just don't want to make a dessert from scratch and you need something to take to that potluck or office party.

For a more about the book, check out this review on Munching on Books.

This recipe comes from Momofuku Milk Bar, where they apparently were going through vats of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing before they decided to make their own version. This is astonishingly similar to that dressing, but the lime zest adds a little something different.

I never actually made the full dip, so I can't say exactly how that would turn out, but I did use the dip mix added to a much smaller amount of sour cream and buttermilk to make a vegetable dip. Then, I decided to use it to make a salad dressing, and came up with my own formula (below) which I thought was pretty darned good.

Milk Bar Ranch Dip
Adapted from Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi

For the dry Ranch Dip Mix:
1/4 cup onion powder
1/4 cup dried chives (If the chive pieces are rather large, you can chop them a bit for better distribution in the mix. I didn't chop mine, and you can see how large they are.)
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons Colman's mustard powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes/powder)
Zest of 2 limes

For the finished dip:
2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 batch dry Ranch Dip Mix

For Ranch salad dressing:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon dry Ranch Dip Mix

To make the dry Ranch Dip Mix:
Combine everything in a bowl, jar, or storage container. Mix well.

Note: my dried chives were a little large, as you can see in the photo of the mix. I think next time (and there will be a next time) I will chop them just a little bit smaller, so they distribute a little better though the mix.

I have mine in a jar on the counter. The first few days, the lime zest was releasing moisture into the mix and when I stirred it, it was a little clumpy. But now, it no longer clumps - I'm assuming the zest bits have fully dried.

To make the dip:
Whisk the sour cream together with the buttermilk in a bowl until smooth. Whisk in the Dry Ranch Dip mix until well combined. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours to let the flavors mingle.

Tosi says this is good for up to a week in the refrigerator. To me, it's a lot of dip to go through in a week if I'm not having a party or making salad for a crowd, so I'd suggest making as much as you think you'll need, since the dry mix should have a significantly longer shelf life.

To make the Ranch salad dressing:
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl or jar. Whisk or shake to combine. Refrigerate until needed. It takes a short while for the ingredients to hydrate and the flavors to bloom, so I suggest making this a few hours or even a day before you need it.

With 1 teaspoon of the mix, it was a mild ranch dressing - not very aggressive. If you want more herb and spice flavor, add more of the dry mix until it's to your liking.

About the salad:
That's romaine lettuce with treviso (the purple), which looks like a purple endive and tastes like a cross between endive and radicchio, as well as grape tomatoes and Mezzetta Deli-Sliced Pepper Rings.

Products I love:
Although I worked with Mezzetta previously, those peppers were purchased by me. The Treviso was supplied to me by Frieda's Specialty Produce. The small jar holding the mix is a Fido jar from Bormioli Rocco; I received several of those for use in an article for another publication.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Pasta Puttanesca

Long, long ago, I worked for a family company that had the bad habit of building its empire by buying similar family companies. Inevitably, we'd acquire one or two family members who were contractually obligated to get a paycheck, but who weren't terribly motivated to work for that paycheck.

Those new pseudo-employees were shuffled around to different departments, in the hope that they'd find something they liked enough that they would do the job, and (fingers crossed) that they'd be capable of doing the job. Or at least they'd cause no great harm.

I worked in outside sales, and one such wunderkind was shoveled into our department, probably because he liked to go out to lunch a lot, and the powers-that-were thought he could at least take customers along for the meal.

I had the un-pleasure of dining with him on several occasions, and whenever he had the chance, he'd order Pasta Puttanesca. Not because he particularly liked it better than other offerings, but because it would allow him to grin creepily and ask everyone at the table, "Do you know what that means?"

He was not Italian, nor did he speak Italian, but he had once asked a waiter what puttanesca meant, and was absolutely delighted that a pasta dish was named after ... well, ladies of the night. And he gleefully shared that knowledge with whoever was dining with him.

The story is that the ladies in question would make this dish because they could make it fast, which allowed them to get back to work quickly. But of course, he didn't care about the story. He just loved translating the name (usually in cruder terms) and gauging the reactions of people at the table, hoping for shock or horror.

Yup, that's the guy you want representing the brand.

Back then, I just rolled my eyes and said yes, I know. These days, I'd probably conspire with a waiter to invent a dish named after men with small noses.

No matter what the name, the dish still holds up as a quick and tasty meal. This version comes from Patsy's Italian Family Cookbook by Sal Scognamillo. Patsy's is an Italian restaurant in New York, and the recipes are what you'd expect from a restaurant serving the classics.

The recipe is actually for Linguine Puttanesca, but I've also had it with spaghetti. Use what you like.

I didn't have the anchovies in oil, but I did have anchovies in a tube. I just eyeballed the amount.

Linguine Puttanesca
Adapted from Patsy's Italian Family Cookbook by Sal Scognamillo

1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup pitted and coarsely chopped kalamata olives
3 tablespoons drained capers, rinsed
6 anchovies* in oil, drained and finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 pound linguine, cooked al dente in boiling salted water
Grated parmesan (or the good stuff), for serving

Get the water boiling and cook the pasta while you're working on the sauce.

Heat the oil and garlic together in a large, deep skilled over medium heat. Stir very often until the garlic is just turning golden. It can burn in an instant. If it does, toss the garlic and oil and start over.

Pour the juices from the tomatoes into the pan, then crush the tomatoes with your hands as you add them. Bring the mixture to a boil, then add the olives, capers, anchovies, and oregano. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let it simmer until it has thickened, about 20 minutes. If the linguine hasn't cooked to al dente by this time, set the sauce aside.

The book suggests draining the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water, and adding the sauce to the pasta along with the reserved pasta water. Instead I transferred the pasta to the sauce, then added pasta water. Do whichever you think is easier.

Bring the pasta and sauce to a boil over high heat. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste - you might not need a whole lot of salt since you have olives, capers, and salty pasta water already.

Serve hot with cheese on the side to add as desired.

*I used anchovy paste from a tube and eyeballed the amount.

I received this book from the publisher at no cost to me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Super-Fudgy Brownies

I recently reviewed Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen over on Munching on Books, but I wanted to share a recipe as well.

These brownies were super-fudgy, just like the recipe said. They're rich and dense and soft and chewy and ... well, fudgy.

Make sure you use chocolate and cocoa powder that you like, because the flavor really comes through in the brownies - I mean, there's a lot of chocolate in there.

The original recipe called for cocoa nibs as an option, but I omitted them, even though I happened to have them. Next time, I might add nuts - probably walnuts - since those are one of my favorites in brownies.

These make a reasonable-sized batch - just an 8-inch square pan - but I suggest you cut them into small pieces - 4x4 to yield 16 brownies instead of 3x3 to yield 9 larger brownies.

Give them a try - I think you'll like them!

Super Fudgy Brownies
Adapted from Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen by Dana Cowin

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 opposite sides - this makes it a LOT easier to remove the baked brownies from the pan.

Sift or whisk the flour, cocoa powder and salt together in a medium bowl.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double-boiler, or a bowl set over a simmering pan of water. Stir until they're both melted and combined.

Place the bowl on a towel to catch drips. Whisk in the sugar, then let the mixture cool a bit before adding the eggs and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.

Fold in the flour mixture. The book suggested optionally adding 1/4 cup cocoa nibs. I'd be more likely to add nuts, but left mine plain.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to release air bubbles.

Bake, rotating the pan if needed, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few fudgy crumbs attached - if it comes out completely clean, you've probably overbaked. It should take 40-45 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool on a rack until they're completely cool. Use the parchment ends to remove the brownies from the pan. Cut into squares to serve.
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