Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

The Taster Upstairs

Tomorrow evening my friend Kit is coming over to have dinner with me and my neighbors Stephen and Scott. We're having an exceptionally hot and humid week in Minneapolis, and I have no air conditioning, so my thought was that we'd have an assortment of light foods that require no cooking in the oven on the day of the dinner. Stephen is a vegetarian, which also influences the menu.

I don't really have much of a cooking repertoire, all told, so I decided that I'd make the tortellini-basil salad I've been making for large potlucks and which usually goes over well. And we'll have some fruit: melons and kiwi and maybe there'll be some ripe raspberries in Stephen's garden. Stephen plans to make an olive feta spread, and I have some chevre. I picked up some fancy ice cream, although Kit may bring dessert. And I got it in my head that we should have a nice salad of mixed greens with some brie and walnuts with a raspberry vinaigrette -- that's because my friend Matt had a similar salad at Great Waters on Tuesday, without the walnuts, and it looked really tasty so it's been on my mind.

I've never made a raspberry vinaigrette. In the Silver Palate cookbook there is a very simple recipe that involves only raspberry vinegar and olive oil and salt and pepper and a little bit of creme fraiche. This same cookbook provides a recipe for creme fraiche that requires sour cream and regular cream. Ah, bingo! I happened to have most of a pint of the extra-wonderful unhomogenized cream from Cedar Summit Farms in my refrigerator, which had already separated into very thick, nearly solid top cream and which had started to become creme fraiche all on its own (something that happens with this cream only; do not try this with regular supermarket cream).

At the upscale supermarket there were several brands of raspberry vinegar, but most of them had corn syrup as an ingredient which I consider to be akin to poison and one of the worst food additives ever foisted on the American public. (Go to a health food store and buy chocolate syrup made with cane sugar. Compare the taste to any of the chocolate syrups at the regular supermarket, which all have corn syrup. You will see what I mean immediately.) The most expensive brand of raspberry vinegar, fortunately, did not have corn syrup.

With the weather as it is, the cream and sour cream mixture turned into thick amazing creme fraiche in a couple of hours. I tasted it, and it was so compellingly yummy I wanted to go out and get some berries and eat it all up at once.

I made a sample batch of the vinaigrette. I liked it, and saw immediately how wonderful the bit of good creme fraiche made it taste. But something seemed not perfect, so I took some bread and went upstairs and had Stephen try the bread dipped in the dressing. He said it was good, but it needed a little bit of sugar or honey, to counteract the tartness. Ah, that's because of the raspberry vinegar with no extra sweetener! Stephen's friend (well, his ex, actually) Russ was visiting, and Russ said he'd be happy with the dressing as is but he defers to Stephen in matters of food. As, for the most part, do I. So I went downstairs and added a smidgen of sugar and suddenly I could taste RASPBERRY. Yum.

This will be wonderful. I love having a food consultant upstairs.
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