Savory Watermelon Basil Salad

Savory Watetmelon Basil SaladRecipes in this Post

I love when spring comes and all the fruits and vegetables you missed over the winter come into season. I especially miss watermelon. There are all sorts of watermelon flavored things, but they are just not the same, and who knows what’s really in them.

Last year, I found a great recipe from Jeff Potter’s book, Cooking for Geeks, for a watermelon and feta cheese salad. It was an experiment in sweet salty that I made one of the times I was Guest Chef at Ascencia in Glendale.

Spane had gotten a good report card and had requested Jambalaya for dinner. It’s spicy food, and with Global Warming Climate Change giving us warm nights already, we needed something to cool down our selves and our palates. I was reminded of the watermelon salad I made last year, and it was time to make another.

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Cranberry Orange Ginger Cream Cheese Salad Ring

Recipes in this PostCranberry Orange Ginger Cream Cheese Salad Ring

I don’t know why people insist on buying the cranberry sauce in the can. Making cranberry sauce from scratch is almost as easy as opening the can. In some cases, when your can opener refuses to play well with the can, it’s even easier! Sugar, cranberries and water, how simple is that? In addition, you get the fun of listening to the berries as they pop like pop-corn. How cool is that?

Ah, but I can’t leave well enough alone. I have to make something special for Thanksgiving, so I’m going to doll my cranberry sauce up, put it into a ring mold, and have a lovely presentation.

When I was a little girl, going to my Uncle Bob’s house for Thanksgiving, he made the most wonderful cranberry ring with cream cheese. I loved it, but never got the recipe. When I asked him about it, he said he hadn’t made it in so many years he had forgotten how to make it, and never wrote it down. I’ve looked all over the Internet, but, alas no joy. So, today, I’m going to attempt to make a similar side dish. Wish me luck!

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Thousand Island Dressing with Balsamic Toasts

Recipes in this PostThousand Island Dressing with Balsamic Toasts

Why would anyone want to write about Thousand Island Dressing? It’s yucky! It’s that reddish stuff that sits on the salad bar and congeals because no one wants it, and rightly so. It’s the “secret” sauce on the Big Mac, and has become so common that you probably don’t even notice it on your sandwich anymore. That’s a pity, because this is a grand dame of salad dressings with an interesting and honorable history.

One of the Thousand Islands only supports one tree and two bushesThousand Island Dressing is named for the archipelago of 1,864 islands that straddles the Canada-U.S. border in the Saint Lawrence River. Some of the islands are very small indeed. The one pictured above supports a single tree and two bushes. The dressing was popularized by May Irwin, a Canadian vaudeville star in the 1890’s. She had a home in Grindstone Island, one of the Thousand Islands. She said that the dressing reminded her of the Thousand Islands, and enjoyed the dressing so much that she requested the recipe from Sophia LaLonde, a fishing guide’s wife who frequently made the dressing for her husband. Miss Irwin then gave the recipe to George Boldt, the proprietor of the famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, who instructed his the hotel’s maître d’hôtel, Oscar Tschirky, to put the dressing on the menu. In 1950 the dressing became a standard, and started its decline into the gloppy mess we have today.

One of the things we do at The Good Plate is to reconstruct packaged foods, so they taste better, and don’t have the preservatives common in packaged foods. I knew that venerable Thousand Island Dressing deserved a better place, and making it from scratch would make it one of my favorites, especially for sea food salads.

I made a crab salad for the dressing, and some Balsamic Toasts to go with them. This was in the midst of Spane and his friend making Play Dough on the stove. There are little bits of homemade Play Dough all over the place. Time to clean!

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Antipasto with Original Brown Derby Salad Dressing

Recipes in this PostAntipasto with Original Brown Derby Salad Dressing

Sometimes it’s a terrible thing to get old enough to remember wonderful restaurants that have closed down, notably The Brown Derby in Hollywood and Little Joe’s in Downtown Los Angeles.

The Brown Derby

When I was a little girl, I was lucky enough to have my mother take me to the Brown Derby in Hollywood. My mother had Cobb Salad, I had curried chicken. We each had a taste of the other’s dinner, and I loved the presentation and flavor of the Cobb Salad. Later in life, I was disappointed to find Cobb Salad made with huge ingredient pieces, it’s a chopped salad, for goodness sake, so all the pieces should be small.

There is a plethora of recipes for the original Brown Derby salad dressing. Even today, just looking so see what others put in their dressing, I came across at least 3 that were completely different. You may ask yourself, how do I know that The Good Plate’s recipe is the right one? Well, this recipe comes directly from The Brown Derby Cookbook published in 1949. The recipe for the famous Grapefruit Cake is also in that book, although my recipe differs in the icing and decoration.

Little Joe’s

When I was in college dating, my boyfriend and I got lost in Downtown Los Angeles. We were hungry, and stopped for lunch at Little Joe’s near China Town. I had an antipasto salad, and it was wonderful. I went back many times to Little Joe’s and especially enjoyed that salad, and their Spaghetti Bolognese. I will be writing about that sauce at another time, when it gets cool enough.

Composed Salad

I love composed salads. They look wonderful, and are large enough to be a stand alone meal. I bought some Mortadella, provolone and salami to make sandwiches for our picnic, and have left overs. I also have some nice lettuce, a giant tomato, avocado, peperoncini, Kalamata olives, and Persian cucumbers. So I am going to take from the two restaurants I loved the most and make something new. Enjoy!

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Ascencia Salad – Tuna, Broccoli and Bean Salad

You never know what life is going to give you, and tonight, the very first night of the New Year, I received something that made my heart leap with joy. I got to cook dinner for 40 people!

When the guest chef did not arrive, I asked if I could cook dinner, and my friend said, “Yes”. First I looked in the pantry, and was amazed to not find any of the things I usually have in my pantry, like onions, or potatoes. There was a lot of pasta, and a lot of spaghetti sauce, frozen turkey sausage, frozen garlic bread, many cans of tuna, two cans of kidney beans, one can of pinto beans, and a can of chopped tomatoes. No problem! The Good Plate to the rescue.

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Ham Steaks with Russian Red Eye Gravy and Cranberry Almond Pilaf

Recipes in this PostHam Steak with Russian Red Eye Gravy and Cranberry Almond Rice Pilaf

Sometimes, you need a little Christmas, right this very minute. That’s why we love ham steaks, because you satisfy your craving for a good piece of ham, without having to cook a whole ham. If you’re lucky, you even get to have the bone with the luscious marrow.

When I make a whole ham, I usually make a glaze of Russian mustard and Sour Cherry preserves. It’s sweet and a little hot, and definitely wakes up the ham. One of the traditional gravies for ham steak is Red Eye gravy, which has, you guessed it, coffee in it. I wanted to incorporate both.

Since The Good Plate is all about deconstructing packaged foods, and one everyone likes a lot is Rice-a-Roni. Rice-a-Roni is rice pilaf, but with way too much salt and other preservatives. There’s no need to use the box, just get the ingredients together and make it from scratch – you know what’s going in it, and you can add whatever you want.

Over the weekend, I made a salad with a new dressing. It was fresh dill and lime, and Amber absolutely loved it. She asked for it again tonight, so I’m including the recipe for it here.

Remember, if you’re having a ham steak, and you don’t want your bone, just give it to me!

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