I’ve been in Mexico for five days, exploring Puebla with the Mexican Tourism Board. You know, Puebla, the home of mole poblano. And other delicious treats like chulupas, chilaquiles, sopa poblana, cemitas and cremitas (don’t worry you’ll find out more soon!). In any case, it’s quite fitting that this month’s Kitchen Bootcamp challenge was salads because after four days being well fed and looked after, it’s salads I definitely need to be eating for the next little while.
This month, I decided to use (and follow) a recipe from the New Best Recipe. Yes, follow a recipe. For salad. I realized when I started leafing through the chapter for this challenge (Chapter 3), that, whilst I make salads quite often, I rarely follow a recipe per se. Especially for dressings. Shocking I know but I always figure if I taste as I go, you can’t go wrong. Well this challenge was eye opening for me because I made this salad (Wilted Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese, Olives and Lemon Vinaigrette, p 88) twice – once kinda sorta following the recipe and the second time, absolutely following the recipe to the word. Guess what? When I winged it, it was tasty but when I followed the recipe it was so much better – a much more refined, subtle taste. A lesson for me, for sure – especially when it comes to dressings, I probably need to make many more of them to understand the quantities and ratios a bit more clearly.
To be fair to me, the first time I was making this, it was part of a pretty full-on meal – seaweed sablés for hors d’oeuvres, coq au vin for mains and French strawberry cake for dessert. Somewhere in between all that, the salad got lost. I measured out the quantities for the dressing but stopped following the directions after I had prepared that. Instead of drizzling the warm dressing over the spinach (hence the “wilted”) and sprinkling the goat cheese on top just before serving, I tossed the spinach in the warm dressing and mixed in the goat cheese in the pan. And left it just a little too long. It was a bit TOO wilted and the goat cheese was very rich as it was practically melted too. Our guests liked it but both Neil and I felt it was overly rich and the goat cheese (which I realize I didn’t measure properly) was little overpowering.
The next day I made it again (never one to be beaten by a salad recipe!) and followed the directions to a T. Oh, I might have added a little lemon zest which the recipe did not call for but apart from that I stuck to the New Best Recipe way pretty closely. I mean, they DO test their recipes so many times why would I think I know better than them?
This is a simple salad with just a few ingredients – spinach, olives, goat cheese for the salad proper and shallots, garlic, oil and lemon juice for the dressing. But proof that simple ingredients (prepared correctly), can produce wonderfully complex flavours.
Kitchen Bootcamp is working through The New Best Recipe (from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated). Want to join us working through this fabulous book? Check out the Kitchen Bootcamp page here and buy The New Best Recipe on Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.