Let me start by saying, I’ve never been a salad person. Food has always been merely a vehicle for butter and salt. That makes baked potatoes and corn, popped or on the ear, the perfect foods. Two summers ago I discovered infused olive oils and vinegars. I hoarded my meager collection but never expanded my palate.
Then Monadnock Oil and Vinegar came to town. These days I toss a poached pear, some spinach, pomegranate seeds, some slivered almonds and what ever else is hanging around into a Tupperware container. When lunch rolls around I wander the isle of the store, picking my pairing from forty choices of mixology.
The pears my lovely aunt sent me at Christmas were poached in two different vinegars I had hanging around. I would love to repeat this experiment with a white ginger honey or an espresso balsamic. After poaching, I put each half pear in zip lock baggies and froze them. Whenever I want a salad, I thaw a pear, and add goat cheese or whatever. The essence of the balsamic in the pear requires just a touch of infused oil and a drop of complimentary balsamic to create a salad worthy of praise.
Tonight’s salad is spinach, gorgonzola crumbled, pomegranate seeds, green onions, and yellow peppers. It’s color is bright, and I’m dressing it with lemon olive oil and dark cherry balsamic mixed about 2:1 heavy on the oil. I drizzled garlic olive oil over store-bought Italian bread, wrapped it in foil and popped it in the oven to heat. From the basket of yummy organic gifts my bosses gave me, I heated up some of Kim’s rich spaghetti sauce and boiled my angel hair pasta in lemon infused olive oil. I didn’t consciously set out to make a meatless dinner, but this was perfect.
Last night I built up the coals in my fireplace and constructed a make-shift grill. I placed a rib-eye steak in a marinated of chipotle olive oil and a dash of dark chocolate balsamic. I dusted it with Jane’s Crazy Salt (I haven’t given up all my vices) and grilled it in the living room. Beyond tender, it was mouth-watering, melt-in-your mouth delicious.
Fresh veggies are scarce in New Hampshire this season. The grocery is full of tasteless tomatoes from other parts of the world and tired green produce that toured the country to get here. My “green” fix will be salads and root vegetables for the next few months but with some creativity and the addition of the oils and vinegars, I won’t be lacking.
Here is a recipe I made up for Barbecued Winter Shrimp. I’m no food photographer but you get the idea.
I use the 8/12 sized shrimp and since I was testing, I only thawed three for me.
2 tbsp Chipotle infused olive oil
1 tbsp Persian Lime infused olive oil
Heavy 1/4 tsp shrimp paste (available at Asian markets)
1/4 tsp Thai red chili paste
Thaw the shrimp in a bowl of water. Heat the oil, and two pastes over a very low heat in a cast iron frying pan, until the shrimp paste melts. I use a splatter guard, also.
Add the shrimp, shells on! Cook over a very low heat about 30 minutes. When I say low, I mean you don’t hear the oil popping. Stir repeatedly, coating the shrimp with the reduced oil/paste sauce.
Peel and cut up to serve over a bed of greens, or peel and eat whole with a crusty bread soaked in garlic olive oil and heated to 350°.
This is very mild, if you want more spice, I would up the red chili paste. It is messy if eaten in the “peel and eat” method, but finger-licking good.