Cast Iron Pans Cast iron pan owners swear by them for their even dispersal of heat and non stick nature. However, iron is not as happy go lucky as other metals. Initially, the pan must be seasoned with vegetable oil in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for at least an hour. Each time you heat the pan with oil, it will season till it obtains a beautiful dark color. Don't wash off the black patina thinking it is dirty. In fact, never use soap or scour the pan or you will remove the essence of the pan. Dry your iron pan on the stove with medium heat but watch it so it doesn't burn.
My Favorite Pan My favorite pan is a twenty dollar cast iron pan. I remember vividly how my step-father coveted his iron pan and warned us about not using soap to clean it. Seasoned and maintained properly, an iron pan can last forever. It is better than any non stick pan and far more durable. It's thick base holds heat better than any pan in my arsenal and prevents food from burning by dispersing the heat.
I keep a bottle of homemade balsamic vinaigrette in the fridge at all times. It's one of the most versatile salad dressings, pairing sweet and sour with just about any kind of salad. But, it's also very versatile, and can be used as a marinade for meats and vegetables. Learning how to make your own fresh vinaigrettes is not difficult and they are so much better than store bought dressings loaded with the cheapest ingredients.
One of my wife's favorite salads is a Berry Madness salad I copied from a local restaurant called Lettuce Toss It. It includes sliced strawberries, blueberries, feta cheese and sliced almonds on a bed of spinach and spring mix. The balsamic vinaigrette matches the sweet tartness of the berries, elevating it to another level. I added a parmesan crisp just cause I was experimenting with them, lol.
Balsamic vinaigrettes are all about the same but differ in their oil to vinegar ratios and special ingredients. I started with a balsamic vinaigrette recipe from Emeril Lagasse but changed the vinegar to oil ratio in favor of more vinegar. I also added dried basil in addition to his garlic, salt and pepper. And, of course, I doubled the garlic as I usually do. If you like my recipe, you might eventually tweak it to your own preferences. Because the dressing contains vinegar, it will last for a long while in your refrigerator. Wouldn't these beautiful tomatoes taste wonderful dipped in balsamic vinaigrette!
Wouldn't this hot smoked salmon on arugula with cherry tomatoes, pecan pieces and shaved pecorino romano taste great with some balsamic vinaigrette? The cheese and salmon are both salty so the cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette offer a contrast in flavors by introducing sweet and sour. If you haven't used arugula before, it's one of the coolest greens out there, offering a spicy twist to your salad.
This salad also has arugula along with bacon, fresh mozzarella cheese (not that low moisture stuff made with skim milk), ripe avocado and tomatoes. I call this my refrigerator salad cause I just made it with what was leftover in my fridge. Thankfully, I had my trustworthy balsamic vinaigrette in the fridge ready to go. It's pretty difficult to mess up a salad if you have fresh ingredients and a good dressing.
You can even marinade vegetables and meats in balsamic vinaigrette. Brussel sprouts roasted at a high temperature taste great when the balsamic vinaigrette caramelizes on it. You end up with a concentrated sweet and sour flavor on your brussel sprouts which I find is the best way to eat them. Accompanying the brussel sprouts are garlic rosemary potatoes and medium rare Santa Maria Tri-Tip.
Balsamic vinaigrette doesn't always have to be the star as shown in this supporting role on a side salad of arugula and heirloom tomatoes. Sometimes you want the main dish, like blackened tuna steaks with mango salsa, to shine but need another flavor to complete the meal. The sweet and sour of the balsamic complemented similar flavors in the mango salsa but was different enough to feel separate.
Balsamic Vinegar (6 Tablespoons or 1/3 Cup + 1 Tablespoon)
Garlic (Minced or Macerated)
Black Pepper (Freshly Ground)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Mix and Shake
Combine all the ingredients together and shake the bottle vigorously. Best to wait an hour for flavors to meld before serving.
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