Sauces and Salsas The Book

135. Green Mayonnaise p.887

The recipe

This mayo is meant to accompany the Poached Salmon in Aspic. I wasn’t quite sure why an aspic covered fish, served with aspic on the side, needed a mayonnaise as well. My guests didn’t eat much of this mayo with the salmon, possibly because I didn’t make it obvious enough that they were meant to be served together, but I suspect it was because no one really felt it was lacking in mayo. If it had just been a poached salmon, a nice sauce would be appreciated, but it seemed out of place with the aspic.

The recipe is dead simple. I started with a cup of yesterday’s recipe for plain mayonnaise. I ran parsley, chives, tarragon, and dill through the food processor with lemon juice and half the mayo. I omitted the optional chervil. Once it was smooth, I added the rest of the mayo, and stuck it in the fridge to come together for a couple of hours.

It tasted very much like mayonnaise with a bunch of herbs puréed into it. Fresh herbs are almost always nice, and they added all sorts of flavour to the mayo. Tarragon and dill aren’t subtle, so it was fairly bold. The additional lemon juice and water from the herbs thinned it out a lot, so it was more of a drizzling than a spreading mayo. As I said, it didn’t do much for the salmon, so I was left with a lot of this. I couldn’t really think of many other uses though. I tried sandwiches, I tried serving it with grilled chicken, and I put some on asparagus. In all cases it was just fine, but I would have preferred plain old mayo, or perhaps an aïoli. Simply grilled or poached fish would be a natural use for this, which I wouldn’t mind trying it at some point, and if it were thicker it could be quite interesting with French fries.

I’m sure there’s a dish out there just begging for a drizzle of green mayonnaise, but I haven’t found it yet.

Pasta, Noodles, and Dumplings The Book

102. Spaghetti with Handfuls of Herbs p.204

I couldn’t find a recipe for this online, but this is more a concept than a specific set of instructions anyway. The idea is to toss spaghetti with extra virgin olive oil, butter, minced shallots, and any and all herbs growing in the garden. The pasta is then sprinkled with bread crumbs which you’ve toasted in olive oil. The heat of the pasta releases the flavours of the herbs, without wilting them too much, and the uncooked shallots are warmed but retain their sharpness.

There are no specific instructions for which herbs to use, or in what proportions. It’s totally dependent on what you have on hand. I had a grand old time out on the balcony with a pair of scissors. I ended up with basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley, chives, sage, lavender, and lemon balm. Those last two were unexpected flavours, but they absolutely made the dish for me. I got really lucky and randomly combined my herbs into a near perfect flavour medley. I couldn’t repeat the process, I just snipped a bit of this and a bit of that, and I ended up with a completely delicious and intensely fragrant plate of pasta. My dining companion thought it was good, but not transcendent, but for me it was exactly the right dish at exactly the right time. It was perfectly suited to a warm night out on the balcony.

The bread crumb topping adds a textural counterpoint to the pasta, but not one I thought was really necessary. The Book says that the bread crumbs don’t weigh the dish down the way cheese would, but I just found them oily. Admittedly my bread crumbs weren’t coarse, and they might have worked better if they’d been more like tiny croûtons. Mine were more of a sandy coating on my pasta. It didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the dish, but I think they ruined it for my dining companion.

You may also notice that I didn’t use spaghetti in this spaghetti dish. I can’t bring myself to care about the different shapes of pasta, and I resent having to remember all of their names. They’re all exactly the same, shells, spirals, round strands, flat strands, big tubes, and small tubes all interchangeable in my mind. Sure, some shapes hold on to some sauces better, and finding things hidden in little shells can be cute. But, the idea that we all need to keep fifteen different shapes of pasta on hand to do justice to the traditions of some particular Italian hamlet is just annoying. They all taste exactly the same, and I’m going to use them as such. The only downside is that the different shapes really do differ in surface area. The amount of sauce needed to coat is proportional to area, which has little to do with mass or volume, so it does take some guesswork to avoid over or under saucing.

The concept of this dish is great, it’s simple and summery. It uses herbs at their peak, and allows for creativity around a central theme. It also has the advantage of not heating the kitchen up too too much. I was thrilled with the flavours at work in my version, and I can only hope you get as lucky as I did if you try this for yourself.

Pasta, Noodles, and Dumplings The Book

54. Herbed Spaetzle p.241

No recipe for this one.

This recipe was a bit of a disaster. As disaster’s go it tasted quite good, but the result bore little resemblance to the recipe description. The Book says

“The tiny drop-style German dumplings called spaetzle are juged by their lightness, and these practically take flight”

My efforts yielded large, dense, and doughy dumplings that no German would have recognized even as a failed attempt at spaetzle. The recipe is fairly simple, a dough of flour, salt, eggs, and milk is lightly brought together. Then the dough is worked through the holes of a colander over a pot of simmering salted water, and the resulting dumplings are boiled for 5 minutes, then tossed with butter, chives, parsley, dill, salt and pepper.

My issue came with getting the dough into the simmering water. I put the dough in the colander which is part of my set of pots. It fits snugly into the top of the pot I had the simmering water going in. I began working the dough through, at first everything was fine, and I made a few 1/4 inch dumplings. As I continued working though, the heat of the simmering water and steam began to cook the dough in the colander, and it gummed up all the holes. I ended up having to force partially cooked stuff through the colander, where it globed together into tablespoon size dumplings for me to scrape off the back. Anyway, I cooked the resultant dumplings longer than recommended, and they were fine, but not spaetzle.

The herb butter was a wonderful compliment to the dumplings, in fact the butter pretty much made the dish. I prepared this during the winter, and I really appreciated having my kitchen perfumed by the herbs as they were tossed with the hot dumplings.

I’m really unsure what went wrong with this recipe, but it just didn’t make any sense the way it was. Maybe the problem was in the shape of my colander? maybe I was supposed to hold the colander mid-air while I pushed the dumplings through? But that seems incredibly awkward. Piping the dumplings into the water would work, but it might be a bit slow. There is such a thing as a spaetzle maker, which I can only presume would do a better job. The poor man’s spaetzle maker suggested here isn’t an adequate substitute.