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Archive for Food Holidays

RECIPE: Melba Toast

Melba Toast & Crostini

Pate & Melba Toast

Salmon Tartare & Melba Toast

Raincoast Crisps

Raincoast Crisps Copycat Recipe

[1] Melba toast and olive tapenade. Here’s the recipe from Sprinkles & Sprouts. [2] Chicken liver paté and Melba toast, with a dab of marmalade. Here’s the recipe from Drizzle And Drip. [3] Salmon tartare and melba toast. Here’s the recipe from Olive Magazine. Crackers or crisps like these are thin and crunchy, but were baked that way. They are not toasted from bread, so are not toasts. [4] These are Raincoast Crisps (photo Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE), and [5] this is a copycat recipe from The Wandering Fig.

 

March 23rd is National Melba Toast Day, celebrating dry, crisp and thinly sliced toasts.

First, and with all due respect, packaged Melba toast has as much to do with homemade Melba toast as the Keebler Elves have with the best homemade cookies.

Melba toast, which became a diet staple in the U.S. thanks to manufacturers such as Devonsheer and Old London, dates to the end of the 19th century.

THE HISTORY OF MELBA TOAST

Melba toast was born in 1897 at the Savoy Hotel in London, where the legendary French Chef Auguste Escoffier ruled the kitchen, and César Ritz ran the hotel. Dame Nellie Melba, the great Australian soprano, was a guest.

There is an unsubstantiated tale that Melba toast was a mistake in the hotel kitchen; that the dieting diva asked for some dry toast which arrived as overtoasted, thin and crunchy slices. However, as with the story of the history of potato chips, the guest enjoyed the result.

The more likely explanation is that Melba toast was created by Escoffier* either as a lower-calorie food for the singer, or as simple fare during a bout of illness in 1897 when she was unable to tolerate richer foodstuffs.

It is said that César Ritz bestowed the name Melba toast, and put it on the menu.

Since then, manufacturers have marketed Melba toast as a reduced-calorie bread option.

But for those who want to enjoy a piece of Melba toast, modern crostini are a much closer match.

MELBA TOAST & CROSTINI VS. CRACKERS & CRISPS: THE DIFFERENCE

Those thin toast points served with caviar, pâté and steak tartare…those crunchy toasts served with cheese…are they Melba toast?

And what do they have to do with biscotti and bruschetta?

Melba Toast Vs. Crostini

These two are very similar. Both are cut from a loaf of bread and toasted. However:

  • Melba toast is toasted dry, saving calories.
  • Crostini are brushed with olive oil, and can be thicker than Melba toast.
  • Thin toast points made without added fat (butter, oil), as served with caviar, pâté, etc., are also Melba toast.
  •  
    Melba Toast Vs. Crackers/Crisps/Toasts

    In the U.S., makers of artisan crackers sometimes call them crisps, to sound more elegant. That works in the U.S., but in the U.K., crisps are potato chips.

  • Melba toast is a slice of bread that is toasted.
  • Crackers and crisps are made from a dough that is baked to its finished size and shape. They are not slices of anything
  • Toasts, or party toasts, are actually bread that is dry-toasted like Melba toast. They are baked to size, sliced and then toasted until dry and crunchy. They are a miniature, thicker type of Melba toast.
  •  
    Bruschetta Vs. Crostini

  • Bruschetta are grilled, crostini are toasted.
  • Bruschetta are larger and thicker than crostini.
  • Here’s more on the differences between bruschetta and crostini.
  •  
    Melba Toast Vs. Biscotti/Rusks

    What about savory biscotti?

  • Biscotti are made from a dough that is shaped into a loaf, then baked. The biscotti are then cut from baked loaf and baked again: twice baked, like Melba toast.
  • They are also called rusks (and have a history with teething babies).
  • However, biscotti, also known as rusks, are much thicker and larger than Melba toast.
  •  
    WAYS TO SERVE MELBA TOAST

    Whatever you call them, serve them:

  • As a crostini base.
  • With dips.
  • With pâté, rillettes and other fish and meat spreads.
  • With soft cheeses and cheese spreads.
  • With salads and soups.
  •  
    Are you ready to toast your own?
     
    RECIPE: MELBA TOAST

    Melba toast is made by lightly toasting thin slices of bread in an oven or under a grill (no grill marks!), on both sides.

    The thin slices are then returned to the heat with the untoasted sides towards the heat source.

     
    Ingredients

  • 1 unsliced loaf of bread, 1 or 2 days old
  • Serrated knife, sharpened
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 250°F. Remove the crust from the loaf. You can save them and turn them into parmesan crisps, or let them dry out overnight and pulse (or use other technique) to make bread crumbs.

    2. DECIDE on your toasting technique. 3a. Cut the loaf into sections 3 inches thick. Cut each chunk into triangles, then cut each triangle into three or more thin slices. 3b. Lightly toast thick slices of bread. While still hot, slice horizontally into two; then create triangles or rectangles as you prefer.

    3. PLACE on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown. Toast bread in oven, flipping slices halfway through, until dry, about 2 hours. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning.

    4. COOL thoroughly. Then store in an airtight container.
     
     
    *MORE FOODS NAMED FOR NELLIE MELBA

    Escoffier created four foods in total in Melba’s honor. In addition to Melba toast, there are:

  • Peach Melba, a dessert made of peaches, raspberry sauce, and vanilla ice cream.
  • Melba Sauce, a dessert sauce of puréed raspberries and red currants.
  • Melba Garniture, tomato stuffed with chicken, truffles and mushrooms in velouté sauce.
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    RECIPE: Ravioli Lasagna For National Ravioli Day

    Ravioli Lasagna

    Pumpkin Ravioli Lasagna

    Ravioli Lasagna

    Ravioli Lasagna

    [1] Beef and sausage ravioli lasagna. [2] Pumpkin ravioli lasagna (both photos courtesy Taste Of Home). [3] An even ravioli top (photo courtesy Oxmoor House). [4] Adding the layer of frozen ravioli (photo courtesy Design Mom).

     

    March 20th is National Ravioli Day.

    We like ravioli in any form, but have been especially delighted with ravioli lasagna.

    Bless the person who first thought of the trick of using cooked ravioli instead of lasagna noodles. (Alternatively, you can use penne or other tube pasta, but ravioli supplies added filling.)

    What looks like a complicated recipe couldn’t be easier when you use frozen ravioli (no cooking required) and store-bought pasta sauce.

    Prep time is 25 minutes, bake time is 40 minutes.
     
    RECIPE: RAVIOLI LASAGNA

    We adapted this recipe from one by Patricia Smith for Taste Of Home.

    The recipe uses sausage or cheese ravioli and adds ground beef. But you can make vegetable ravioli, chicken ravioli, or anything you prefer. Here’s another Taste Of Home recipe for (here’s the Pumpkin Ravioli Lasagna (scroll down).

    You can vary the recipe any way you like. For example:

  • Substitute ground chicken, turkey or textured vegetable protein (TVP) for the beef.
  • Add veggies via two layers of frozen, thawed spinach or kale (pressed dry), frozen peas or medley.
  • Substitute Alfredo sauce (cream sauce) for the tomato-based sauce.
  • Substitute vegetable ravioli for the meat or cheese versions.
  • We’ve even use ratatouille as the sauce, when we’ve made a large batch (pulse it into a chunky vegetable sauce.
  •  
    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 jar (28 ounces) spaghetti sauce
  • 1 package (25 ounces) frozen sausage or cheese ravioli
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Dried herbs/spices: (chili flakes, garlic chips, oregano)
  • Optional garnish: minced fresh herbs (basil, parsley, thyme)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Cook the beef over medium heat in a large skillet, until it is no longer pink. Drain.

    2. LAYER in a greased 2-1/2-quart baking dish: 1/3 of the spaghetti sauce, 1/2 of the ravioli, 1/2 of the cooked beef, and 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat the layers. Top with the remaining sauce and cheese.

    3. COVER and bake for 40-45 minutes or until heated through.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF RAVIOLI

    China gets the credit for inventing not only strand pasta—thin chow mein noodles like Italian angel hair, chow fun noodles like Italian linguine, chow fun noodles like Italian pappardelle, and stuffed wontons like Italian ravioli.

     
    When it arrived Italy, stuffed pasta (another name for the category is pillow pasta) was served with Italian-style pasta sauces.

    Some food historians believe the name “ravioli” derives from the old Italian word riavvolgere, to wrap.

    Others believe that the dish was named after a renowned 13th-century chef named Ravioli, who lived in the Republica di Genova (a.k.a. Genoa, today the Italian region of Liguria).

    The record on him is scant, but according to DeLallo Authentic Italian Foods, Chef Ravioli is credited with the invention of the stuffed pasta composed of two layers of thin pasta dough with a filling sealed between them.

    Interestingly, the Venetian Marco Polo, who brought the concept of stuffed pasta back from China, had subsequently become a soldier in Venice’s war with Genova. He was taken prisoner by Genova in 1296 and released in 1299, to return to Venice [source].

    We don’t have dates for Chef Ravioli, but might he have heard about the stuffed wontons via someone who heard it from Polo? Given how scant the record is on the chef, we can say with almost-certainty that we’ll never know!

    Here’s much more on the history of ravioli.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The Best Irish Coffee Recipe?

    Irish Coffee

    Irish Coffee Glass

    Irish Espresso

    [1] The Irish Coffee recipe from Tim Herlihy of Tullamore D.E.W.. [2] The traditional stemmed Irish Coffee glass (photo courtesy Barmano). [3]Irish espresso, a riff on Irish Coffee (recipe #3 below, photo courtesy Tullamore D.E.W.)

     

    January 25th is National Irish Coffee Day, and for that occasion we received an Irish Coffee recipe created by Tullamore D.E.W. Brand Ambassador Tim Herlihy.

    Tim may have consumed more, different Irish Coffee recipes than anyone else. So when he created his own recipe, we paid attention. It’s now the off dial Irish Coffee recipe of Tullamore D.E.W., our favorite Irish whiskey, a version of the original

    The first appeared in the U.S. in 1952 when journalist Stan Delaplane tasted it in Ireland and convinced his friend, the owner of the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco, to put Irish Coffee on his menu (it was made with Tullamore D.E.W.).

    Tim crafted his version after the Irish Coffee first made in 1943 thrown together in 1943 for cold travelers in a chilly seaplane terminal in Ireland (the scoop).

    Tim likes it as an after-dinner drink; but it can warm you up anytime. Bartender’s Tip: With all hot drink recipes, preheat the goblet or mug by first rinsing it with hot water (we use the microwave).

    If you don’t like coffee, a recipe for Irish Hot Chocolate follows (recipe #3).

    RECIPE #1: TIM HERLIHY’S TULLAMORE D.E.W. IRISH COFFEE

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1½ parts Tullamore D.E.W. Original
  • 1½ parts strong brewed coffee (Tim’s Pick: any premium dark roast)
  • ½ parts demerara sugar (substitute other raw sugar or light brown sugar)
  • Lightly whipped heavy cream
  • Cinnamon or nutmeg
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT a clear-stemmed glass with very hot water. Add the sugar and brewed coffee and stir well until the sugar has melted. Then stir in the Tullamore D.E.W.

    2. GENTLY WHIP the heavy cream by shaking it in a blender bottle, a.k.a. with a protein shaker with blender ball. We love this shaker, for scrambled eggs, instant soups and drinks, etc. and mixes (Here’s our review).

    You want a still somewhat loose, not stiff consistency. (You can also achieve this with a hand mixer.)

    3. POUR the cream over the back of a hot teaspoon to create the top layer of the drink, and prevent the cream from penetrating the coffee layer.

    4. GARNISH with grated nutmeg or cinnamon.

    Variations From THE NIBBLE

  • For a less sweet drink, don’t add sweeten the whipped cream, as is common in the U.S.
  • Add some “green,” add 2 teaspoons creme de menthe instead of the creme de menthe (or in addition to it, for a very strong drink), mixed in with the coffee; or drizzle some over the whipped cream top.
  • Ditto, Bailey’s Irish Cream or other Irish cream liqueur.
  •  
    RECIPE #2: IRISH ESPRESSO (IRISH COFFEE SHOTS)

    Traditional Irish coffee combines whiskey, brown sugar, black coffee and heavy cream. In these shots, coffee liqueur substitutes for the coffee and sugar, and Irish cream liqueur takes the place of the whiskey and cream.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 4 teaspoons/20ml Tullamore D.E.W. Original Irish Whiskey
  • 2 teaspoons/10ml premium coffee liqueur
  • 2 teaspoons/10ml heavy cream
  • Garnish: coffee beans (we substitute chocolate-covered coffee beans)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ADD the Tullamore D.E.W. and coffee liqueur to a mixing glass. Stir and pour into shot glasses.

    2. THICKEN the heavy cream slightly with a hand-held mixer or blender bottle. Top each shot with fresh cream and garnish with coffee beans.

    RECIPE #3: IRISH HOT CHOCOLATE

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1-1/2 to 2 ounces Irish Whiskey
  • 6 ounces good quality hot chocolate
  • Garnish: chocolate flakes (shave a chocolate bar)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a goblet or mug. Add the whipped cream. Sprinkle with chocolate flakes.

     

    WHAT MAKES IRISH WHISKEY DIFFERENT

    There are several distinct styles of whiskey in the world—American (rye and bourbon), Irish, Canadian and Scotch.

    While all are produced in a broadly similar way, there are substantial differences in the final product that are based on the choice of grains, the type of still, the number of distillations, the maturation period and the type of oak barrels in which the whiskey is matured.

    The end result is that each country’s whiskey has its own distinctive characteristics.

    Irish whiskey is smooth and clean-tasting, a result of triple distillation. It’s the only triple-distilled whiskey in the world. Here’s the scoop.

    Whiskey vs. whisky.

    The word comes from the the Gaelic uisce, pronounced ISH-ka, and the Scottish uisge, pronounced USH-ka. They became isky and usky and then evolved to the modern English whisky.

    Canadians spell “whisky” without the “e,” as do the Scots and most other countries except Ireland and the U.S.

    Scholars can’t determine why the “e” was dropped by the Scots many centuries ago. One theory is that the Irish made whiskey first and pronounced it with a broad “e.” When the Scots began to make it, they dropped the “e” to differentiate their product.

    A 1968 directive of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms specifies “whisky” as the official U.S. spelling, but allows the alternative spelling, “whiskey,” which most U.S. producers prefer.

    Check out the language of whiskey in our Whiskey Glossary.

    ALCOHOL DISTILLATION

    Alcohol distillation was discovered in the late eighth century by an Arab scholar, Abu Masa Jabir ibn Hayyam, “the father of modern chemistry.” Among other discoveries were acetic acid, citric acid, tartaric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid and aqua regia, one of the few substances that can dissolve gold, and crystalization.

    Jabir invented many types of now-basic chemical laboratory equipment. One was the alembic still, the al-ambiq.

    When Jabir distilled wine, he created the world’s first distilled alcohol, and discovered a liquid that had benefits as medicine.

    Since this equipment was often used to boil powdered antimony into a liquid called al-kohl (used to make the cosmetic kohl), the liquid became known as alcohol and the al-ambiq became the modern alembic still.

     

    Abu-Musa-Jabir-ibn-Hayyan

    The First Still

    Early Alembic Still

    [4] A 15th-century portrait of Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan, also known as Geber (courtesy Wikipedia). [5] His early distillation still. [6] A later illustration of the early alembic still (still images courtesy Crystal Links).

     
    Distillation remained a secret process, handed down orally. It was ultimately shared with monks in Spain, who also used it for medicinal purposes, adding herbs and other botanicals to create distillations such as Benedictine and Chartreuse.

    Missionary monks brought the recipe to Ireland.

    The secret process for distilling alcohol from wine was written down for the first time in a European language around 1300. It was accomplished by Arnaldus de Villanova (Arnald of Villanova), a Spanish physician, scholar and professor of medicine in Montpellier, France, who was fluent in several languages including Arabic. (He also discovered carbon dioxide and developed pure alcohol).

    He called the distilled alcohol aqua vitae, water of life. It translated to aquavit (Scandinavia), eau de vie (France) and vodka (Poland and Russia).

    Villanova believed it would “prolong life, clear away ill humors, revive the heart and maintain youth.” Others claimed it also alleviated diseases of the brain, nerves and joints; calmed toothaches; cured blindness, speech defects and paralysis; and warded off the Black Death. (Needless to say, it does none of these things, except perhaps putting one to sleep so as not to feel the tooth ache.)

    In 1478, 48 years after the invention of the printing press, the first book on distillation was published. It became a best-seller, with 14 printings in 20 years.

    [source]

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Reuben Sandwich Day & Recipe For Reuben Muffins

    Reuben Sandwich

    Reuben On Marble Rye

    Turkey Reuben On Rye

    [1] A classic Reuben Sandwich (photo J. Java |Fotolia). [2] A Reuben on marble rye (photo courtesy Boar’s Head). [3] A Turkey Reuben on plain rye instead of pumpernickel (photo National Turkey Federation).

     

    In 2013, March 14th was declared National Reuben Sandwich Day by the city of Omaha, birthplace of the Reuben Sandwich.

    HISTORY OF THE REUBEN SANDWICH

    As the story goes, Reuben Kulakofsky (1873-1960), a Jewish Lithuanian-born wholesale grocer, invented the sandwich in the late 1920s for his weekly poker game. He may have had input from members of the group, which held forth in the Blackstone Hotel from about 1920 through 1935.

    The Reuben he created is a grilled or toasted sandwich on rye or pumpernickel, with generous amounts of corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and either Russian or Thousand Island dressing (the difference is the pickle relish in the latter).

    Among the poker players was the hotel’s owner, Charles Schimmel, who added it to the Blackstone’s lunch menu, where it was quite popular.

    But the Reuben Sandwich became known nationally when a hotel employee won a national contest with the recipe.

    The National Sandwich Idea Contest was a promotion held during National Sandwich Month, to inspire professional cooks to create excitement in the sandwich category. It was sponsored by the Chicago-based Wheat Flour Institute.

    The first winners were announced in 1956, and top honors went to Fern Snider, a cook at the Blackstone [source]. The sandwich recipe was provided (restaurant sized, for 48 sandwiches!) to restaurants nationwide.

    Another story credits Arnold Reuben (1883-1970), the German-Jewish owner of the Reuben’s Delicatessen in New York City (open 1908 to 2001, changing locations numerous times).

    In a 1938 interview with Arnold Manoff, a writer with the Federal Writers’ Project of the WPA, Arnold Reuben details his creation of the “Reuben Special,” but it was made with roast beef, not corned beef, in 1926 [source—a seven-page transcript of the interview].

    He also claims, in that interview, to have created the concept of sandwiches named for celebrities. That claim is not contested.

    The evidence says Omaha wins. But it took until March 2013, in Omaha, for the mayor to proclaim March 14th as Reuben Sandwich Day.

    Check out our Sandwich Glossary for other sandwich histories.
     
    REUBEN SANDWICH VARIATIONS

    The Reuben has been adapted many times over, including a substitute of pastrami, turkey (photo #2) or tongue for the corned beef, and coleslaw for the sauerkraut. Rye or marble rye (photo #2) can stand in for the pumpernickel.

    Some variations aren’t grilled (so the cheese isn’t melted, alas). Some variations:

  • Georgia Reuben: a Michigan variant of a turkey Reuben that substitutes barbecue sauce or French dressing for the Russian/Thousand Island dressing.
  • Grouper Reuben: a Florida specialty that substitutes local grouper for the corned beef.
  • Lobster Reuben: this Florida Keys variation substitutes lobster for the corned beef.
  • Montreal Reuben: substitutes Montreal-style smoked meat for corned beef.
  • Walleye Reuben: a Minnesota version that features the state fish, the walleye, instead of corned beef.
  • West Coast Reuben: substitutes Dijon mustard for the Thousand Island dressing.
  •  
    We’ve also published recipes for Reuben Egg Rolls (photo #5) and Reuben Collard Wraps (photo #6).

    A Reuben on a pumpkernickel bagel (photo #7). Oy vey! A pumpernickel wrap sandwich is a much better homage (they’re made by Tumaro’s and can be found nationwide, including at Walmart).

    How about Reuben Tacos?

    This year we have Reuben Biscuits (photo #3). The recipe follows.

     

    RECIPE: REUBEN MUFFINS

    Thanks to King Arthur Flour for this variation (photo #4). Prep time is 15-20 minutes, bake time is 22-24 minutes.

    The muffins are delicious with scrambled eggs.

    Ingredients For 15 Biscuits

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose Flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1 cup diced Swiss cheese (1/4″ dice)
  • 3/4 cup diced ham (1/4″ dice)
  • 1/3 cup well-drained sauerkraut
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Cream for brushing
  • Optional: Thousand Island dressing
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment.

    2. WHISK together the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Work the butter into the flour until the mixture is unevenly crumbly. Mix in the cheese, ham and sauerkraut until evenly distributed.

    3. WHISK together the sour cream and milk and add to the dough, stirring to combine. The dough should be sticky. Drop the dough by the 1/4-cupful onto the prepared baking sheet (a muffin scoop works well here).

    The biscuits can be spaced quite close together. About 1″ apart is fine.

    4. BRUSH the biscuits with a bit of cream; this will help their crust brown.

    5. BAKE the biscuits for 22 to 24 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool slightly in the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Thousand Island dressing is a nice accompaniment.
     
     
    MORE REUBEN RECIPES

  • Reuben Egg Rolls
  • Reuben Collard Wraps (meat or vegan)
  • Reuben Tacos
  • Reuben Burger
  • Vegetarian Reuben with vegan pastrami
  • Reuben Hors Bites or Beer Bites
  • Reuben Hot Dogs
  • Reuben ravioli from Chef Michael Symon
  •  

    Reuben Biscuits

    Reuben Egg Rolls

    Reuben Collard Wrap

    Reuben On A Bagel

    [4] Reuben Biscuits (recipe and photo courtesy King Arthur Flour. [5] An Egg Roll Reuben (photo courtesy Dietz & Watson). [6] A Reuben Collard Wrap (photo courtesy Spring Vegan). [7] Reuben on a pumpernickel bagel—with added mustard. Oy vey! (photo courtesy

     

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Ranch Dressing Day & The History Of Ranch Dressing

    Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing

    Kraft Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

    Casserole With Ranch Dressing

    [1] America’s #1 bottled dressing, Hidden Valley Ranch, and [2] Kraft, a runner-up. Note that both are labeled both ranch and buttermilk. [3] The dressing is used to top tacos, pizzas, and casseroles like this one. Here’s the recipe from Kraft.

     

    March 10th is National Ranch Dressing Day.

    Based on sales of bottled dressing, Ranch is America’s favorite. It surpassed the previous favorite, Italian dressing, way back in 1992.

    Ranch dressing is made of buttermilk, mayonnaise, seasonings (black pepper, garlic, ground mustard seed, lemon juice, paprika) and herbs (chives, parsley, and dill). Sour cream or yogurt are sometimes used for all or part of the buttermilk or mayonnaise.

    Here’s some little-known food history:

    You heard it here first: ranch and buttermilk are the same dressing. Buttermilk dressing, which has been made in the southern U.S. for centuries, has the same recipe.

    Look closely at recipes and packaged dressings. Many have both “buttermilk” and “ranch” in the title or on the label.

    HISTORY OF RANCH DRESSING

    By the late 1800s, the naturally-occurring sour milk, called buttermilk, was popular in baked goods, for marinating chicken, as a health food at spas and sanitariums, and other applications.

    Printed recipes for buttermilk dressing go back more than 100 years in southern cookbooks.

    The original was a boiled dressing made with eggs, vinegar, buttermilk, herbs and spices. (Famed restaurant critic Craig Claiborne, a Southern boy, hated it.)

    With the advent of commercial mayonnaise in the 1930s, it became easier to make, and no boiling was required.

    As modern refrigeration (in the form of the ice box) became commonplace in homes, the milk no longer soured. Commercial dairies began to culture it, and sold the buttermilk we know today beginning in the 1920s.

    But before then, the dressing became popular among cowboys. With a wealth of cattle, buttermilk was more available on the High Plains* than vegetable oils. The chuck wagons dished out creamy buttermilk-based dressings for a long time [source].

    Here’s a longer discussion of the evolution of buttermilk.

    In the early 1950s, Steve Henson, a Nebraskan working in the Alaska bush, created a dressing for his crew from buttermilk, sour cream, mayonnaise and seasonings: garlic, herbs and spices, onions and salt.

    In 1954, Steve and his wife Gayle opened Hidden Valley Ranch, a dude ranch in the Santa Ynez mountains, near Santa Barbara, California. They served the dressing to guests and called it ranch dressing.

    Aha!

    It was very popular, and guests asked to buy it to take home. The Hensons sold it both as a finished product and as packets of dry mix to be combined with mayonnaise and buttermilk.

    Demand for the dressing grew much more than demand for bookings at the ranch. The Hidden Valley Ranch Food Products was incorporated and a factory established.

    The dressing was first distributed to supermarkets in the California and the Southwest, and eventually, nationwide. The brand was purchased by Clorox and the ranch sold.

    And now you know how old-fashioned buttermilk dressing turned into the more intriguing-sounding ranch dressing.

     
    HOW TO USE RANCH DRESSING

    Ranch dressing is common in the U.S. as a salad dressing and a dip for crudités. It is also used:

  • As a dip for chips and pretzels.
  • As a dip or sauce for fried food: chicken fingers, French fries, fried mushrooms, fried onion rings, fried pickles, fried zucchini, hushpuppies, jalapeño poppers.
  • As a condiment or sauce for baked potatoes, burgers, casseroles, chicken wings, pizza, tacos, wraps and other sandwiches; and with seafood such as Arctic char, lobster, salmon and shrimp.
  • According to an article on ranch dressing facts, Melissa McCarthy and Courteney Cox have been known to chug it, and Katy Perry insists on ranch in her backstage rider (what is available in her dressing room).

    ________________

    *The High Plains comprise southeastern Wyoming, southwestern South Dakota, western Nebraska, eastern Colorado, western Kansas, eastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma, and south of the Texas Panhandle.

  •  

    WHY YOU SHOULD MAKE YOUR OWN RANCH DRESSING

    Be Food Smart researched America’s favorite dressing, Hidden Valley Ranch, to point out the brand promise vis-à-vis the actual ingredients. Here’s their full article, but the highlights:

    What the brand’s website says:

    Our Original Ranch® recipes are made with wholesome ingredients and the perfect blend of herbs and spices. Enjoy the farm fresh taste of Hidden Valley® in our ranch dressing mixes, dips and salad toppings.

    The actual ingredient list:

    INGREDIENTS: Soybean oil, water, egg yolk, sugar, salt, cultured nonfat buttermilk, natural flavors (soy), spices, less than 1% of: dried garlic, dried onion, vinegar, phosphoric acid, xanthan gum, modified food starch, monosodium glutatmate, artificial flavors, disodium phosphate, sorbic acid and calcium disodium EDTA as preservatives, disodium inosinate, and disodium guanylate.

    Not exactly wholesome or farm fresh!

    So, time to really know how good ranch is, by making your own. We adapted this recipe from Simply Recipes.

    Make your own buttermilk. You don’t have to buy a quart of buttermilk. You can make 1 cup of buttermilk by adding 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice or vinegar to a one-cup measure, plus enough milk to make 1 cup. Stir and let sit.

    Turn buttermilk/ranch into blue cheese dressing. Just stir in 1/2 cup crumbled quality blue cheese at the end.

    RECIPE: BUTTERMILK RANCH DRESSING

    Ingredients For 1.5 Cups

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, finely chopped (substitute 1/4 teaspoon of dry dill, but nothing beats fresh)
  •  
    Variations

    There are many variations on the original ranch recipe. Anyone can adjust the seasonings in the recipe above to bring out the flavors you like. You can also switch them out; for example:

  • A blend of Greek yogurt (1/3) and buttermilk (2/3).
  • Apple cider vinegar instead of lemon juice.
  • Cayenne instead of black pepper.
  • Dijon mustard instead of powdered mustard.
  • Minced garlic clove or 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Scallions instead of minced chives—and more of them!
  • Tarragon instead of dill.
  •  
    Preparation

     

    Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

    Wedge Salad Buttermilk Dressing

    Crudites Plate

    [4] Freshly made buttermilk/ranch dressing. Here’s the recipe from Little Broken. [5] A wedge salad with buttermilk/ranch dressing. Here’s the recipe from Creative Culinary. [6] Crudités with buttermilk/ranch dressing, from Good Cheap Eats.

     
    1. WHISK together the buttermilk and mayonnaise in a medium bowl. When fully combined, blend in the other ingredients. That’s it!

    2. COVER and refrigerate. It will keep a few weeks.

      

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