Vinaigrettes or Salad Dressings Old & New

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An oak leaf lettuce

Introduction

I love a good vinaigrette or salad dressing, one that barely coats the salad leaves and that has enough acidity to cleanse the palate. But I cannot abide salads where the leaves have been drowned in a sappy mayonnaise soup, something that is all too common in the UK and USA.

A salad needs good leaves. If it is a single variety make it count, e.g. a frisée, butter or oak leaf. Otherwise use a mixture of leaves and add leafy herbs in small quantities.

The classic formula is one part acid to three parts oil, but there is considerable variation depending on the acids and oils you use. So my tip is taste, taste and taste again.

As I write this I realise that I use a lot of different dressings, so I am giving you my two favourites, plus a celebratory dressing that is perfect with an avocado and watercress salad and an oil-free dressing that I reconstructed from the restaurant 't Hofke in Antwerp.

Porchetta or Rolled, Herb-Stuffed Pork Belly

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Porchetta ready to serve

Porchetta

Introduction

A favourite here in Misse, Porchetta is a rich dish and a little goes a long way.

Porchetta is a classic Italian pork roast. It has been recognised with a 'prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale' (traditional agricultural-alimentary product).

The original is made with a whole small pig, which has been gutted, de-boned, stuffed with herbs, garlic and wild fennel then spit roasted. It is commonly seen in this form in Butcher's shops and is bought by the slice. It can be eaten warm or cold.

Escalopes with Prosciutto or Dry-Cured Ham

Turkey Escalope with Dry-Cured Ham

Introduction

A dish rich in flavours but easy to prepare, I have been making this version for several years.

I like to use Turkey or chicken escalopes as they have a subtle flavour and absorb the other flavours used, but pork or veal will also work.

We were reading through Elizabeth David's 'Summer Cooking' yesterday, it was first published in 1955. It was surprising to discover that she had already started discussing the advantages of free-range poultry back then.

Spaghetti with Garlic, Chili & Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Spaghetti with Garlic, Chili & Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Introduction

I was sorely tempted to show you a photograph of the empty plates follwing this dish, but that's not the point is it?

We have now stocked the Misse kitchen cupboard with oven-dried tomatoes to see us through the autumn and winter months. That will allow us to enjoy a taste of summer all year round.

I chose pecorino cheese for this recipe as it accentuates the earthy flavours of the dish.

Aubergines\Eggplants with Oven-Dried Plums

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Aubergines\Eggplants with oven-dried plums

Introduction

We have a large crop of aubergines\eggplants in the garden. Both the traditional purple and the creamy white variety. It is this latter variety which gave us the name 'eggplant' as the berries, technically they are berries, resemble eggs.

When I posted the recipe for oven-dried plums, I promised to put them to good use and here is one of the dishes. This recipe has been adapted from Ashbury's Aubergines.

French 75 Cocktails, Classic & Misse-Style

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The final touch, sparkling wine

Introduction

A hot summer's day calls for a cocktail with a bit of a breeze flowing through it. Something that refreshes, but also gently reminds you it's not just fruit juice in that fancy glass. Nothing fits that bill better than a champagne or sparkling wine-based cocktail. And we especially like mixing them here at Circle of Misse since there are so many excellent bubblies available from our local Loire Valley producers. This drink, the French 75, with its cool gin overtones, summery citrus notes, and celebratory bubbles, beautifully Frenchifies that most sun-friendly of drinks, the Gin and Tonic.

It reportedly originates from Henry's Bar in Paris, where it was created sometime in the 1920s to celebrate the famous French 75 rifle used in World War I. The idea being, according to the Savoy Cocktail Book, that the drink "hits with remarkable precision." As with most famous cocktails, origin stories abound, including one that a World War I flying ace created it and another that it's a British drink brought to France by Americans. A bored bartender at Henry's in Paris rings most true.

Cheese, Potato, Rosemary & Red Onion Tart

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Tomme, Potato, Rosemary and Red Onion Tart

Introduction

This is a tart that Wayne put together in August of last year (2009) and it was excellent. It is really a cross between a tart and a flatbread.

As there are neither cream or eggs in this tart you need to use a semi-soft cheese.

Spaghetti alla Gricia

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Spaghetti alla Gricia

Introduction

This is my signature dish. The simplicity of it represents everything that I value about good Italian food.

At the Circle of Misse I use this dish to demonstrate recipe deconstruction. Once we have tasted the simplified dish, we then experiment with additional ingredients to identify and assess their contribution. With a small list of additions, this dish can be turned into three very different pasta 'classics'.

After curing the pancetta below, I took a slab of it to the market for Wes and Charlotte who supplied the raw ingredient. Charlotte, who was heavily pregnant at the time, was delighted. She cut off a slice and much to the horror of her customers tucked into it. 'Hey, this is from my pigs and I know what they ate,' was her response.

If you like this recipe visit lapasta.com for more pasta recipes. The site contains a collection of recipes that I began writing and publishing several years ago.

Celeri (Celeriac) Remoulade

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Celeri Remoulade

Introduction

We have started experimenting with some of the classic French hors-d'oeuvre. We covered Tapenade last week as it is popular in summer, but celeri remoulade, champignons à la Grecque and grated carrot salad are ubiquitous, available mass-produced in every French supermarket, and most taste as boring and predictable as store-bought coleslaw.

Our starting point has been the notion that something becomes popular and enters the realm of 'classic' because it is or was good, likely very good. As time moves on and once industrial manufacturing gets involved, there may be little of the original 'classic' left.

H/T to Julia child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle for their contribution to this dish. This version has been adapted from theirs with a hint of Escoffier and an idea inspired by Anthony Bourdain.

Potato and Tomato Flatbreads

Potato & rosemary flatbread

Introduction

When we lived in Atlanta, I was a devotee of Morningside organic farmer's market. I still miss Wes and Charlotte's Berkshire pork which is amongst the best in the world. I made several sides of pancetta and bacon from their pork bellies, guanciale from the cheeks and fresh and fermented sausages from a mixture of pork cuts. I posted many of these early curing experiments on egullet.

Right opposite the farmer's market is the original Alon's Bakery. After the 30 minute cycle, mostly uphill I might add, we felt deserving of a treat. My favourite: a slice or two (ahem) of Alon's flatbread. I decided to recreate them here.

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