On Sunday, our clocks moved forward. Or was it backwards…ummm…this always causes great debate…hang on…”Spring=forward, Fall=back”. Ahem.
On Sunday, our clocks definitely moved forward and that means two things here on the Homestead:
The Homestead resonated to the sound of the tsunami sirens as they are put through their bi-annual paces. For the record, they came in loud and clear, perfectly audible over the general noise of the Homestead in action at 11am on Sunday morning. Personally, we’d be happier with no chance of a tsunami, but we acknowledge we were the ones that chose to live one block from the beach.
BBQ time is here again and that means the garden suddenly turns into one giant salad. Now, we know that lots of people love their greens unadulterated, or with a squirt of lemon and a dusting of black pepper, or perhaps a drizzle of olive oil. We are not among that throng.
The fact that we require our salads to be dressed was the cause of not a little consternation when we started taking this way of life seriously. You see, supermarkets the world over (those we’ve seen anyway) dedicate shelves upon shelves of space to an unending plethora of salad sauces and most of them are utterly delicious. We love vinaigrette, mayonnaise, creams, dressings, and oils. In the old days, our fridge door groaned under the weight of, at the very least, four at any given time; four choices of rich salad-augmenting scrumptiousness, four stunningly different flavours depending on your mood. Garlic and Avocado? French? Coriander and Balsamic? Good old fashioned mayo? Four stubby little plastic bottles with cunning little flip-up plastic tops and all hygienically wrapped and sealed – with plastic. In our clean, green, tread-lightly-on-our-planet ethos, dressings just weren’t going to make the cut, no matter how much we worked to justify them.
We went for one whole salad season using only homemade oils and vinaigrettes. There is a Provencal/Spanish/Italian saying (someone must have said it because every book or website we researched in our salad dressing deprived delirium said so) that it takes four men to dress a salad: A miser for the vinegar, a wise man for the salt, a spendthrift for the oil and a crazy man to mix it.
Overlooking the whole “man” thing, we spent a while adhering to the general rule of three tablespoons of oil to 1 tablespoon of acid (vinegar/lemon juice), a pinchette of salt, and the merest hint of ground pepper, frenetically shaken into submission in an old jam jar . We found it to be…pleasant; satisfactory. Okay. Forgive us, but we felt the vege we spent hours sowing, weeding, mulching, feeding and watering deserved a bit more pizzazz. We weren’t going to tolerate tolerable.
So we started tinkering. We like a bit more acid in our dressings and by far the best acid we’ve found to add is the brine we use to pickle our cucumbers and gherkins (after we’ve fished the aforementioned cucurbits out of it, we mean). We put in a slug of good olive oil, add about half that amount in brine, half a teaspoon of home made mustard, maybe a crushed garlic clove or some finely diced chilli, into a screw-top jar (we don’t add herbs to our dressings, preferring them directly in the salad bowl) and shake the lot until it’s emulsified (it looks cloudy and opaque). Employing Farm Girl’s impeccable tastebuds, we add salt and/or pepper on her recommendation, and attempt to stop her guzzling the lost before it hits the salad. This dressing is great for coleslaw, which we eat in huge amounts, and other hearty salads; Farm Girl likes it on her lunchbox carrot sticks (at school she’s on her best behaviour and only drinks the dregs when the teacher’s not looking, apparently).
Any attempt of ours to make a creamy dressing was a total disaster with the exception of the condensed milk concoction of The Milk Maid and Bean Counters youth, and that only served to show how much tastes can change in a couple of…decades. Then one day we discovered aioli and it was like the sun came out from behind a cloud. This recipe is made with raw egg yolks – use eggs you utterly trust!
We’re not quite sure how it worked, or why it worked; we’re simply happy that it did. We use it stirred through steamed broccoli or beans, mashed into spuds, to decadently dredge our treat hot chips through, as a cruditè dip and, of course, ladled greedily over our salads.
The perfect texture is gloopy and butter-like, but sometimes things just go a bit bad and you achieve something less than this. We’ve never had the mixture split, but sometimes it’s runnier than we’d like. Apparently you can add another egg yolk, but we don’t bother…it still tastes gorgeous.