A couple of weeks ago, a friend asked me to cater a dinner for her. Now, before the health inspector gets up in arms, I did all the cooking at her house, so it was legal!
I haven’t been catering much since I realized that the only real way to make a living as a caterer (when you have a mortgage to pay, at least) is by cooking for very large parties. I am now only a special-occasion kind of cook who will do small parties for friends or on referrals.
Since I don’t cook for others that often, it is more of a novelty. And way more fun. While the kinds of people who often hire me might find it tedious, I absolutely love planning a menu.
I can dream up meals in my sleep. I am not afraid to spend hours laboring over the old cookbook and magazines, and even more time online. There is nothing more satisfying, to me at least, than coming up with the perfect plan for a meal. Even when it means a simple meal, I still want the details to be good.
As far as I am concerned, most good meals start with a salad, especially in the summer when locally grown greens are abundant. And since it often comes first, the salad can make or break the meal.
I honestly don’t know why people bother with bottled salad dressing. While I will keep a bottle of Annie’s Goddess dressing in my cabinet for when I am in a pinch, salad dressing is not hard to make, and I generally always make my own.
The easiest thing to blend is a simple vinaigrette. A quick whisk of your wrist, a mix of good olive oil, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar and garlic, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and you’ve got yourself a perfect salad dressing.
While a simple vinaigrette is often my go-to, some meals call for something a little different. For this recent dinner I was making green curry. Since the meal was Asian-inspired, I decided to make an Asian dressing to go along with it.
There are plenty of options for Asian dressings. A rice wine/sesame oil vinaigrette can be nice. Since I was doing simple field greens, I decided I wanted a more substantial flavor for the dressing. I love the Japanese-style miso ginger dressings you get when you go to some hibachi restaurants, so I decided to play around with an at-home version of that.
I must admit, miso scares me a little bit. I know it is simply fermented soy, and it usually just adds a mild salt and earthy flavor, but I don’t use it at home very often. I am not sure why. I love the flavor when I eat miso-marinated black cod or miso soup.
I really didn’t know what to expect, but I looked at several variations of miso ginger dressing, and they all had the same few ingredients: miso, ginger and a light oil. I couldn’t help myself. Though it is not traditional, I threw in a clove of garlic.
The dressing was everything I expected. Very full of flavor. Thick and rich but not in an oily or overpowering way. Just a good, solid flavorful topping to some simple greens prepared to go along with a curry or some other Asian main course.
Dress the greens generously, and sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top before serving.