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smoky blood orange vinaigrette

March 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Did you know that the Chocolate Lava Cake was an accident? In a rush to provide a warm dessert, the chef who created it took the cake out of the oven too soon, and when a fork was pressed in to it, the soft, melty interior slipped out. The chef was aghast, but the customer loved it. Boom. Herald the ubiquitous appearance of it on restaurant menus for decades, and a spot in the Dessert Hall of Fame.

This Smoky Blood Orange vinaigrette was also an accident. A delicious and colorful accident.

smoky blood orange vinaigrette

Back at the beginning of the month I had a dinner party to celebrate my 50th birthday, and invited some of my closest friends. It was a wine-soaked feast full of amazing food and so much laughter. My friend Mellissa brought a Greek salad with a stunning Blood Orange vinaigrette and I kind of glommed on to that vinaigrette and wanted to pour it over everything I ate. I even bought a container of Aliseo Blood Orange juice so I could whip some up for every salad I ate. During one of these moments, I grabbed a container of smoked spanish paprika off the shelf and shook a little in to the measuring cup.

Then I had that moment much like Chocolate Lave Cake Chef, where I was aghast, and thought ‘Oh dear…. that can’t possibly work, can it?’ I mean, I’ve been putting smoked paprika in a lot of foods because it tastes just so darn good and it was more like habit to reach for the dark red bottle on the spice shelf. Shrugging off concern, I whisked it, tasted, adjusted and tasted again. Then I poured it over a pile of lacinato kale and a bevy of other beautiful vegetables.

greens and vegetables with smoky blood orange vinaigrette

The first bite was a revelation. And another happy accident became an amazing delight. There was the tart citrus, the smoky paprika and a hint of sweetness from coconut palm sugar. I use brown mustard, minced shallot and some garlic, salt and pepper. It’s really nothing to make a vinaigrette from scratch, and the taste of your homemade salad dressings is far and away better {and better for you} than anything you can get in a bottle on the grocer’s shelf.

And besides…. it looks so pretty inside your refrigerator.

smoky blood orange vinaigrette

Smoky Blood Orange Vinaigrette

1/2 c. top quality olive oil
1/3 c. blood orange juice
1 T. whole grain mustard
1 small shallot, very finely minced
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 t. coconut palm sugar (or sub in any sweetener of preference)
1/2 t. cracked black pepper
1 t. fine grain sea salt
1 T. smoked spanish paprika

In a 1-pint glass jar (or other vessel of equal size), measure all ingredients. Shake or whisk well until fully emulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking- more sweet, more salty, a bit more juice….. I’ve found this vinaigrette needs more juice than the standard 2-1 ratio of a basic vinaigrette, but I want to taste the bold flavor of the blood orange juice. You may like it with less pizzazz. I recommend chilling it thoroughly before using, and tasting it again to see if it needs any more flavor adjustments.


melancholy, and sweet potato hummus

March 13th, 2012 | 7 Comments »

There’s something going around in my life lately, that’s been apparent in this space. And that’s nothing. Nothing at all. I’ve had some posts here and there (five total in February, which is not much at all) and yet they’ve all felt like I’ve dragged them kicking and screaming from my brain. Nothing has landed in me, a late winter melancholia, a heavy weight that’s latched itself around my neck, like I’m just hauling around with no real purpose. My dear friend Angharad, who writes in this lovely space, put it so succinctly in this post that I feel like she reached right inside me, flipping on a light and said, in her delightful lilting English accent “Oh, there you are, you beastly thoughts. Get OUT of there!”

And it’s just this time of year, this wrinkle between the winter that never really was and a Spring that is still so so far away. Without snow coverage on the landscape, it’s been this flat and dull brown for the last six months and it makes my eyes, and my heart ache to look at it. The lack of color punches me in the ribs and knocks the wind out of me, because there is just nothing there, and it’s this nothing that’s dropped like a stone in to my life. I missed my snow, the squeak of my boots, the crystalline cold that penetrates you and takes your breath away, and I missed my cross country skis. And in this space that is neither one season or the other, I’m bored with the foods and the tastes and the textures of a Winter that never came. I’ve been repeating recipes, sticking with simple meals and just coasting. Coasting through the nothing, and waiting, patient, and with eyes on the sky for the breath of Spring to come and lift this nothing away.

And in the meantime, I’m eating sweet potato hummus, coveting every bite because it’s this incredible thing I’ve found and although there are people out there talking about it, it still feels like a secret that maybe you want to keep, but you know it’s worth spreading around. Because, as hummus goes, this one is the bees knees to this hummus loving girl. While I could sit down with a full food processor bowl of freshly made hummus and scoop to my heart’s content, the addition of a soft and fragrant roasted sweet potato turns this humble condiment into something really kind of extraordinary, like that first real Spring day when you wake up and remember that there really is a definitive end to Winter.

And there’s really nothing to it, this Sweet Potato Hummus. One nice sized sweet potato, roasted almost to a point of collapse until it’s juicy and delectably sweet gets mixed in to any standard Hummus recipe, whizzed together in your food processor or high-speed blender and then, best of all, eaten in any manner you would consume this easy snack. Roasting the sweet potato gives it such an incredibly deep flavor, especially if you use the dark orange skinned variety like Red Jewel or Garnet (the ones most people refer to as Yams, even though they aren’t true Yams at all). The darker orange flesh contains more moisture, as well as a higher level of antioxidants. Eat your colors, remember? Sweet potatoes are just brimming with vitamins and minerals, are very low on the Glycemic Index and contain a high level of anti-inflammatory properties. Add in a good source of fiber, without saturated fat or cholesterol and this nutritional workhorse has far more going for it than just good taste or a pretty face. Maybe the consumption of this, chock full of good ingredients, might be the crane that lifts me from this nothing I’ve been experiencing, in to the something that I’m craving, mind and heart, right now.

Another good thing? You can bake off an entire sheet pan of sweet potatoes, slip them from their skins when they’re cool and freeze them in plastic bags to have on hand for any manner of baking or cooking. I’ve had sweet potatoes in the freezer for more than six months (due to getting buried) and the texture hasn’t shown much change at all, other than maybe a bit more watery.

But back to that Hummus. Or better yet, I’ll stop my endless blathering so you can skip in to your own kitchen and make this for yourself. Because there’s some left in my fridge, and I’m off to cut up a few carrots, dip a few crackers and work on stoking my creation fire that I know is still in my brain. Eventually this nothing will lift; it does every year. I hope the grocer has enough sweet potatoes in stock.


Easy Sweet Potato Hummus

1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed
1/3 c. tahini
1/4 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 T. olive oil
1-2 t. kosher salt
1 medium roasted sweet potato, cooled and skinned
1/4 c. water (or more, depending on how creamy you like your hummus)

In the work bowl of a food processor, or in a high speed blender, add all the ingredients and process, adding water if necessary, until the consistency you like. Serve immediately, or chill overnight.



Elsewhere on the blog, regarding Sweet Potatoes:

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Oatmeal Sweet Potato Muffins

Whole Wheat Muffins with Squash and Quinoa

Curried Sweet Potato and Corn Risotto