Ellen Ecker Ogden, is the author of five books, including From the Cook's Garden, based on the catalog she co-founded in Vermont, and The Complete Kitchen Garden, which features theme designs for cooks who love to garden. Her kitchen garden and articles have been featured in national magazines, including Eating Well, Horticulture, The Boston Globe, Country Gardens and Martha Stewart Living.
She is dedicated to growing ornamental edibles and has been a guest chef on PBS's Victory Garden, and HGTV's Garden Smarts, where she is known as the "baroness of basil." She combines her love of good food with a background in fine art to create kitchen garden designs that turn work into play.
For more information: www.ellenogden.com
A great salad is just moments away.
MY DAUGHTER Molly is home from college for spring break. She is determined to learn to cook. After two years of dining room food and microwave noodles, real food suddenly has appeal. She wants to combine this knowledge with starting a garden, so we begin with the basics: salad dressing.
Bottled dressing is not an option in my kitchen. Homemade dressing is a family tradition that goes back to my grandmother, handed down through my mother, and now to my daughter. I serve a green salad every night, tossed in a wooden salad bowl with oil and vinegar, the way I was taught. My recipe follows the classic proportions: three parts oil, one part vinegar. With that as a foundation, I adapt the recipe, depending on the type of lettuce and the piquancy of the greens.
If the leaves are soft and buttery, I use lemon instead of vinegar to mix with olive oil. A crisp romaine deserves bold flavors, such as balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard. Spicy or bitter mixed greens benefit from something sweet – such as maple syrup — to tame the bite. A well-made dressing can transform almost any type of greens.
I've always been fascinated with the interplay of flavor and texture, but Molly is in no mood for a long discussion: "Just tell me how to make it," She says.
So I emphasize that the key is to enhance the flavors in the greens, which can be subtle. Don't smother them with dressing. To ensure that she has options for all types of greens, I provide a repertoire of recipes, below.
Here's to the continuation of a family tradition.
As the season progresses, I sow more seeds to ensure a continuous crop of greens.
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