on the menu: caesar vinaigrette

On June 19, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

Here is the recipe for the caesar vinaigrette I’m putting on various kale-heavy salads lately. I can’t get enough of this kind of salad; handfuls of kale and spring greens with enough variegated debris to make it interesting, doused with a punchy, sour vinaigrette.

kale salad

This vinaigrette is cobbled together from a few recipes and features significantly more vinegar than is usual for anyone, evidently. I don’t really measure any of this, I approximate based on these amounts.

2 T sherry vinegar (champagne or white wine vinegar also works)
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon zest (or, in a pinch, juice)
1/2 tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp honey
dash worcestershire sauce
generous pinch of herbs de provence
1/3 c olive oil (Maybe less. I like a vinegar heavy dressing, some would use more like 1/2 or 2/3 c oil.  A nice grassy green oil is excellent here, and one with more of a black olive flavor is lovely, too.)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c freshly shredded Pecorino cheese (or skip this and grate big ribbons over the salad, or do both.)
salt and pepper to taste

Shake it up, dresses two large portions.

For example I pour about half over a mixing bowl full of vegetable matter. I’m not sharing that.

I like to shake rather than employ some tool to emulsify, was recently reading that shredding the olive oil can bring out a bitterness that shaking prevents. This dressing has so many powerful flavors that it probably wouldn’t make a significant difference but shaking is also quick and easy. I use a trusty Ball jar.

Also recommended: pimentón on avocado.

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on the menu: eggs baked in avocado

On May 14, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

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This idea comes from The Garum Factory, co-authored by Jody Adams (head chef at the Rialto here in Cambridge) and her husband, Ken, who does the photography and much of the writing, and who I recently met (which is how I learned about the blog).  I find most of the recipes interesting mental exercises, like reading a cool cookbook, but this one for eggs baked in avocado I wanted to try.

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Pillivuyt Brasserie tableware on loan from Didriks

I overbaked them slightly such that the eggs were a bit dry (I would bake them less than the prescribed time for the next attempt, and watch them more closely), but they were really good all the same, totally redeemed by the bright, fresh guacamole/salsa hybrid offered as a side (see link for recipes). I intend to include ginger in [virtually, maybe literally] all of my salsas and guacamoles from now on.

Baked avocado has a pleasing richness, and is a nice way to dispatch an avocado that isn’t quite what it should be when it should be (underripe better than overripe, which can become a bit bitter in the baking I’m told). Weirdly good with coffee, I suppose due to the creamy fat of the avocado/egg situation contrasting with the acidity of the coffee. Will be perfecting these.

 

into: hair oils

On April 1, 2013 by theseventhsphinx

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My hair is perennially parched, ultra-absorbent, and scoffs at standard conditioners. The answer: oil. Straight up oil.

I find that oil is the answer to many things.

[Though if your hair is fine, it would probably be disastrous to use the kinds of volumes I am using.]

So, I wash it (if it is a washing day), condition it, do a rough towel dry and then:

1/2 – 1 tsp. of a blend of coconut oil and Vatika, a coconut oil based hair treatment that you can find at Indian grocery stores†. It smells like coconut mixed with lemon and the rich, earthy scent of henna. It is not very expensive, but I blend it with the slightly cheaper coconut oil to stretch it and to up the coconut scent, which I love. These are both solid at room temperature but melt instantly upon contact with skin. Melted between the palms, I apply this generously to all but the first few inches of my hair (onto which I smooth the last remnants), and then comb out.

To the tips I add another custom blend. As with face oils, I just look for organic, 100% pure options, whatever looks good. The blend changes over time, as I just keep arbitrarily filling my little pump bottle (the Macadamia Healing Oil Treatment, which smells awesome and masculine and ambery, but which is not great because it has silicone* in, and is expensive, anyway, so I just use the bottle now) with whatever I have at hand, but it is something like this:

[it turns out I forgot to put a few in the picture…you will have to imagine them, or look at my post on face oils]

macadamia nut oil. 100% pure, the kind you would buy for cooking. This shows up in a lot of drugstore hair products these days, and it is not a coincidence. No distinct odor. This is the dominant ingredient.

sweet almond oil. Because it’s not too expensive and is ultra-nourishing. This is probably next on the official ingredient list, quantity-wise.

avocado oil.  Smells a bit like food…but only a bit. Avocados and avocado oil are good for most things relating to hair and skin. I also cook with this.

olive oil.  Also extremely versatile and generally good for hair and skin. And doesn’t have to be expensive.

apricot kernel oil. Why not? Provided the textures play well together, the more the merrier, with oil blends.

argan oil.  Just a few drops, to give the blend an air of luxury.

sesame oil.  Maybe a TINY bit, because it smells strongly of food, but it is great for skin and hair. Great way to use that inedible sesame oil you accidentally bought from the American supermarket, because six years ago you thought you would be fine not going with an Asian brand. [But it was not fine, was it?] Alternatively you can put it on your feet.

All of this is still cheaper than some high-end leave-in treatments I’ve tried, and I am so much more satisfied with these results.

[Soon I’ll experiment with castor oil as a base for a scalp stimulant. Castor oil is a lot more viscous than the oils above and doesn’t mix readily with them.]

Pin up into the loose, old-lady bun I’ve been doing lately, and air dry [always]. My hair IS actually oily after this. For hours. That is, if you touched it your hand would come away slightly besmirched. It doesn’t look oily, though. It glows with health, and is soft and hydrated. The curls are wonderfully defined and have good integrity (once dry I can move them around quite a bit before they disband into frizz). And I don’t want people touching my hair anyway.

 

† I cannot, however, recommend the jasmine hair oils you can also find in Indian grocery stores. Jasmine is a notoriously animalic, fecal essence (some of the molecules in jasmine and feces are nearly identical), and you will not smell like a flower garden.

* Silicone is not bad, really, but its effects are cosmetic only, and you have to wash periodically with clarifying shampoos to remove build-up. I avoid it because I want a genuine sense of the health of my hair, and I want to nourish it, not just create the effect of nourishing it. It’s in so many products now, though.

into: face oils

On February 16, 2013 by theseventhsphinx

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I have naturally oily skin but I like to treat it as if it is sensitive, dehydrated skin. Oily ≠ hydrated.

My preferred method of hydrating, protecting, and nourishing my skin is: face oils. For years now they have nearly taken the place of moisturizer altogether, especially at night, and my skin hasn’t been this soft and healthy since…before puberty. The lighter oils aren’t any greasier/heavier than a standard sunscreen, and many absorb completely within half an hour or so. They are also extremely soothing after exfoliation or skin treatments and rarely cause the stinging that the chemicals in some moisturizers can.

A good quality oil is often cheaper than a good quality moisturizer, and a little goes a long way. Most can be used for your hair or in the kitchen as well (not to mention as makeup removers and cleansers). I find dropper bottles the most convenient. Not too fussed about brands here, I just look for organic, 100% pure options and go for whatever is reasonably priced. Different oils provide different benefits, and I like to rotate several depending on how my skin is feeling on a given day.

argan oil.  Healing and nourishing, antioxidants, fatty acids, etc. I’m sure you’ve heard. Lightweight, absorbs quickly, no scent. I like this one and this one.

apricot kernel oil. Vitamin A & fatty acids. Healing and good for especially sensitive skin. Also quite light, and, like argan oil, good for when the skin is blemish-prone.

rosehip seed oil. Packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, good for skin regeneration and treatment of scarring. You can go not so cheap(though I found this one discounted at TJ Maxx), or you can go really not so cheap. Downside that this dyes your pillow orange, upside is your skin the next day. Thick and rich, can really only be used at night or on isolated dry patches.

jojoba oil. Similar to the skin’s natural oil so it absorbs beautifully and has no distinct odor. Trader Joe’s has a good price. Inexpensive enough to use all over the body as well.

sweet almond oil. I tend to use this on my body rather than my face as it is especially moisturizing, inexpensive and has almost no odor. Absorbs well into the skin (unlike, say, baby oil, which is basically mineral oil, which provides a barrier of protection  but is difficult for skin to absorb (like petroleum jelly)). Great carrier oil for making your own blends. I like to add random essential oils to scent it (many of which also have skin benefits, but do your research first). Recommend frankincense (go smell frankincense), patchouli (not just for the 60s anymore), chamomile, lavender, peru basalm, ylang ylang.

Then there are blends, which can be very expensive indeed. Watch for cheaper blends bulked up with cheap oils like safflower. They will moisturize but don’t have the benefits a concentrated, high quality oil will. I have some of these but they are for the oil-guzzling body, not the face.

I don’t regret acquiring the Clarins rebalancing oils, which are precious but smell amazing and are packed with great nutrients. The Blue Orchid one smells especially awesome. Kind of a sweet, light, compelling patchouli. [Men, go put this on your face and just see what happens.] If, like me, you have a thing for cardamom, try the Santal one. Or, you know, choose one based on your skin concern. Smell before you buy, is what I say about these.

I’ll do a separate post about the oils I like for my hair, which are many. Will also soon experiment with olive oil, avocado oil, hazelnut oil, and castor oil in various contexts. We’ll see how it goes.

N.B. I didn’t like evening primrose oil, which, without heavy dilution with some nice-smelling stuff, smells actually rancid. Some oils should be stored in the refrigerator as they will go rancid, but this one smells unbearable anyway.