Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pass the Excellent

Do not ask how 20 days slipped by since my last post! I think I'm going to require further grace in the coming months. Right now the end of another semester is keeping me very busy.

Please don't get the idea that I'm a high-maintenance kind of girl, but the hobbies I entertain/dream about the most are quite expensive to maintain, especially on a college budget. I would travel, frequent local markets, cook, bake, and call life good, if I could. In the location I'm at, fresh and natural food don't come even reasonably priced but maybe some day. Until then, I am facing the worthy challenge of counting these days as equally significant and lovely as those to come.

I am doing my best to maintain this blog and have come to enjoy the excuse to write, shoot photographs, and connect with others over food. Right now my priority is using up what I have before I leave for the summer and sticking to a budget (unfortunately ingredients for a fresh stone fruit claufoutis do not fit within these parameters). However, I always have salad ingredients on hand and plenty of oil, herbs, garlic, and tomato sauce crowding my cupboards. With the temperatures rising to unbearable heights (I melt at 80 degrees unless, of course, I'm at the beach), I haven't been in the mood to spend much time at the stove, so a salad dressing made a lot of sense.

This particular dressing is my mother's own recipe, and I hesitated for a moment to post it here because my family has exclusively prized it for many years.

I have flickering memories of visiting small specialty stores in Auckland, New Zealand with my mom when we were preparing to move back to the States.* Behind sliding glass refrigerator doors sat jars of her speckled orange dressing with a simple, pretty label. The profit she made from selling this dressing to friends, the staff at my school, and small stores like this one helped my family make the move back.

We grew up asking for "Excellent" at the dinner table. I think the labels on the jars my mom sold read "Rachael's Excellent Dressing" or maybe it was "Rosie's" - that's how my older brother, with a clearer memory than me, remembers it. This dressing is sharp yet not overpowering, slightly sweet but mostly tangy. It contains a variety of ingredients combined into a pleasing, addictive flavor great for cold pasta and salads abundant with vegetables.

The bowl I poured my freshly made dressing over contained cold skillet roasted potatoes and onions, turnip greens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and sunflower seeds. The combination was delicious, but there are so many other possibilities. Play around!

Rachael's Excellent Dressing

Makes about 2 cups.

1-1/4 cups canola oil
1/4 cup wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons tomato sauce
(ketchup is acceptable, but I tend to reach for this)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 large garlic clove
1-1/2 teaspoons Vege-Sal (or other salt)
1-1/2 teaspoons honey
1-1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Put all ingredients in blender. Blend well.

*Ammendment on 4/28: My memory did indeed fail me. Apparently my mom bottled and sold this dressing to earn money for our family of six to travel back to the U.S.A. for a family reunion the year before we left NZ for good. Not too relevant to making Excellent, but important to the integrity of creative non-fiction (can you tell I'm taking a writing class this semester?).


MudSlider said...

I was just talking about "Excellent" dressing the other. Boasting again of how wonderfully unique it was- equally delicious on salad or fries. New Zealander's put vinegar on their "french" fries, and Excellent was a close cousin in taste- a much more sophisticated alternative. Thanks for the recipe Lael.


Kate / Kajal said...

nion powder would really take this dressing to another level. Cant wait to try it out.

Lael said...

Dad: oh, yes, I just remembered about our baked potato dinners growing up too. I would pour excellent all over the steamy inside and load it up with sunflower seeds. yum!

Kajal: I hope you enjoy the dressing!

ChichaJo said...

Thank you for being so generous with you family recipe! It does sound excellent :) I have a question...when you say tomato sauce, do you mean tomato sauce like sugo/passata or like ketchup?

Thanks for visiting my site :) I'm glad I discovered yours :)

Lael said...

chichajo: great question! I mean sugo/passata, though my mom has used ketchup in a pinch before and it works fine. thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Bronwyn said...

I've just been prompted to check my Recipe clippings file and found my original handwritten (photocopied) recipe given as a parting from NZ gift by Rachael. Everything on my copy is as per this recipe except that here in NZ I use tomato puree, and the onion powder measure is 1 3/4 tsp(I use flakes) My family and I have such an appetite for this particular dressing that I have handwritten a doubled quantity version in the margin! This dressing always makes a regular reappearance each summer here, and my mouth is about due to be reminded of the sophistication of this one. It also makes a great marinade for barbeque meats.