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Recipe Exchange: Spring means fresh herbs, onions for your salads

by Ada Roelke

Already spring blooms are showing their pretty colors, and those who planted herbs, onions and garlic starts last fall are reaping early rewards from kitchen gardens.

One doesn’t need much space to take advantage of hardy herbs such as chives, garlic chives, parsley, sage, oregano and tarragon. If you have even a small patch of ground, you can find these herbs in local nurseries.

Fresh herbs lend zest to even the simplest meal. One must wait until later to plant frost sensitive basil and rosemary, but now is a good time for radishes, green onions and lettuce.

I have a master gardener friend who puts in her snap peas very early, and begins enjoying their fruits before many have planted. Vinaigrette salad dressings produced in your own kitchen are free from added ingredients meant to make them appear more attractive and increase their shelf life. Also, they are quick to make and can be tailored to your own individual tastes. Experiment and write down your favorite combinations and you will be surprised at the pleasure you derive from your various salads. Either invest in a leak proof cruet so you can shake before using without splattering dressing around or save a bottle from purchased dressing. Save a few and you can make up several variations to have on hand.

Vinaigrette Dressing

Vinegar is an excellent preservative so no need to worry about bacteria growing in your dressing.

1/4 cup vinegar*

3/4 cup oil

2 tablespoons water

one-half teaspoon dry mustard

1 clove garlic, pressed

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and let season a few hours to blend flavors. Fresh garlic lends a unique flavor, but prepared garlic either in paste or powder may be used. Vinegars are varied and may be mixed. A teaspoon of balsamic adds a nice taste, and one may substitute lemon, lime, or grapefruit juice for the vinegar.

I like half olive oil and half canola or safflower, as olive oil tends to solidify in the refrigerator. For a low-fat combination, add a few tablespoons of non-fat plain yogurt, or sour cream if you are not watching calories. This makes a pleasant creamy dressing with a slight tang from the yogurt.

Now you are free to add whatever herbs and spices appeal to you. I usually prefer dried herbs, as with fresh ones, you must use up your dressing more quickly to prevent spoilage.

Some herbs I use are tarragon, parsley, oregano, cilantro, rosemary, and basil. I especially like sage with chicken salads and basil with citrus and avocado salads. If doing a taco salad I include cayenne and cumin.

Aside from balsamic vinegar and specialty oils, the ingredients are relatively inexpensive, so don’t be hesitant to experiment. I have been known to feed unsatisfactory results to the garbage disposal.

Blue cheese or Roquefort Dressing

This is a great favorite with many people and also easy to make. All ingredients can be regular, but low-fat mayonnaise, sour cream and milk work very well.

One-half cup mayonnaise

2 cups sour cream

3 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons vinegar

1/4 teaspoon each, salt, white pepper and garlic powder (optional)

1/2 pound blue cheese or Roquefort, crumbled

Place first four ingredients, seasonings and 1/4 cup of the cheese in the blender and blend smooth. Blend in remaining crumbled cheese. Because there are no preservatives, this must be treated as fresh milk or sour cream, as it can spoil.