Posts Tagged ‘Ranch Dressing’

The Food of Love

Sunday, July 24th, 2016


My most recent television appearance was devoted to encouraging viewers to come to my concert this coming Saturday. Alice Parker and I (known near and far—mostly near—as the Divas of Hawley, Massachusetts) will star in LOVE WALKED IN, an evening of classic love songs by such songwriters as the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Burt Bacharach, and Alice herself.

If you’re in Western Massachusetts this weekend, I urge you to join us on July 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Federated Church on Route 2 in Charlemont. Donations at the door will go to the Rose Anna Dixwell Fund, which helps fund music lessons for local children.

I firmly believe that all children—and all adults, for that matter!—should make music whenever possible so I’m proud to be associated with this endeavor.

The evening will be fun, with lots of hamming it up from the resident soprano and lots of singing along. Cabot Cheese has donated nibbles for the after-concert reception, and bakers are standing by to brave the heat and make cookies, so our program should be delicious literally as well as figuratively.

To highlight the concert’s romantic theme on Mass Appeal, I prepared my idea of a romantic meal. Everyone’s ideal romantic meal is different. This one was loosely based on a meal I enjoyed when I was 19 at la Maison de Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise, France.

Van Gogh's Bedroom

Van Gogh’s Bedroom

My companions and I toured the tiny room in which Van Gogh spent his last months. We then dined downstairs in a lovely, convenient restaurant. I ordered a small steak (really, the French know how to cook steak to perfection) with a delectable salad. To complete the meal the waiter brought an ENORMOUS bowl of chocolate mousse to our table. I was in food heaven.

The company—my honorary godmother Dagny Johnson and her nephew Eric—was pretty wonderful, too. If Van Gogh had been able to enjoy such food and such company, he would probably never have committed suicide.

I couldn’t replicate the steak or salad exactly; I’m not French. So instead for my romantic meal I made my favorite flank steak, which I have described before on this blog, and a fresh salad with my neighbor Gam’s herbed buttermilk dressing. Gam’s recipe calls for dried herbs, but since I had fresh ones I used those instead. The dressing turned a fascinating shade of green.


I did have a French recipe for chocolate mousse, thanks to my mother’s cordon-bleu studies. So the mousse was authentic.

I didn’t have QUITE enough time to beat the egg whites for the mousse on the air—live TV presents unique challenges—but I brought along some mousse to serve and share with everyone at the studio.

It went fast!


Seth comforted me following the egg-white debacle.

Gam’s Herbed Buttermilk Dressing


2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley (or more!)
1/2 teaspoon dried chives or lots of fresh
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano or lots of fresh
1/4 teaspoon dried basil or lots of fresh
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon or lots of fresh
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice (plus more if you like)
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup mayonnaise


Combine all ingredients in the order indicated and mix well. Store in the refrigerator, and re-shake before using. Makes a little over 2 cups of dressing.


Taffy’s Cordon Bleu Chocolate Mousse


6 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) sweet butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 tablespoons coffee, divided (you may use water instead or use a bit of each)
4 eggs at room temperature, separated
1/2 cup superfine sugar, divided (if you don’t have superfine sugar and don’t want to buy it, whirl regular sugar around in a food processor for a bit; that will do just fine.)
1 pinch salt


In the top of a double boiler (or in a heatproof bowl over warm water) combine the chocolate, the butter, the vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of coffee. Cook the mixture over hot water, stirring, until the chocolate melts. Remove the pan from the top of the hot water, and set it aside to cool.

In another heatproof bowl combine the egg yolks, 3 tablespoons of coffee, and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Place them over the hot water and cook, whisking vigorously, until the mixture becomes uniformly frothy and lighter in color.

Remove the yolk mixture from the top of the hot water, and whisk it for another minute or so. Whisk in the chocolate mixture. Allow the resulting concoction to cool for a few minutes so that it is lukewarm to the touch. (You may begin beating the egg whites while the chocolate/yolk mixture is cooling.)

Combine the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat them until the egg whites are foamy. Sprinkle on the remaining sugar and beat the egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whites into the chocolate mixture. (It helps to add a little bit of them at first, then the rest.)

Spoon the mousse into a serving bowl or bowls. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight; then serve with a little whipped cream. Serves 8.

And now the videos……

Tangy Ranch Salad Dressing

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010


After my recent LENGTHY post on Lillian Hellman and pot roast I believe my readers and I deserve something short and simple today.
I’m nibbling on any greenery I can get my hands on at this time of year–usually augmented with apples, nuts, and dried fruit. So I thought I’d share with you my most recent salad dressing.
A few days ago I had a hankering to make the ranch dressing my neighborhood matriarch, Mary Parker (a.k.a. Gam), used to make. Hers was the first ranch dressing I ever tasted, about 30 years ago. I loved its smoothness, its tang (from buttermilk), and its gorgeous flecks of herbs.
Unfortunately, the file that contained Gam’s recipe has mysteriously disappeared from the Tinky laptop. The laptop is not, alas, the most reliable of electronic devices.
Instead I used some of what I remembered from Gam, took a look at a few other recipes in cookbooks, and came up with my own version of the dressing.
It isn’t exactly Gam’s formula, but it certainly perks up a salad. You’ll find it a little thinner than commercial ranch dressings (which probably contain mysterious thickening agents). It still adheres nicely to a lettuce leaf or a carrot stick. And its complex, fresh flavor beats that of any bottled dressing I’ve ever tried.
Cutting the Herbs

Cutting the Herbs

Not Gam’s Salad Dressing
fresh herbs to taste (I used 1 handful parsley, 1 handful dill, and a few basil leaves)
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup mayonnaise (low fat is fine if you’re dieting)
1/2 cup sour cream (I should think Greek yogurt would also work very nicely, although I haven’t tried it)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon salt
several turns of the pepper grinder
several drops of Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch sugar
1 pinch paprika
Chop the herbs as finely as you can. I do this by crowding them into a small, narrow glass (like a juice glass) and sticking my scissors into the glass. You may need to chop your herbs in batches.
Combine the herbs with the other ingredients in a blender and process until the mixture is smooth. Place the dressing in a covered jar and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours before using it.
Makes a little more than 2 cups of dressing. Use within a few days.
I love having herbs on my window sill at this time of year!

I love having herbs on my window sill at this time of year!

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