Miso Happy: Creamy Miso Vinaigrette

Oil and vinegar. Oil and lemon. Oil and balsamic. Mustard vinaigrette on lively greens tossed for the briefest amount of time possible and showered with crunchy salt.

These dressings make a regular appearance at our table, but every now and then I crave the kind of tangy, smooth and creamy dressings I grew up with. My mother's recipe was based on my grandmother's go-to standard, which started with mayonnaise and a squirt of ketchup—an ingredient almost as ubiquitous as cream of mushroom soup in my mom's repertoire—plus a sprinkle of thyme and basil with a pinch of garlic powder, thinned with a splash of milk.

So when I've got some sturdy heads of romaine, escarole or chicories that can stand up to heftier dressings, my thoughts turn to Caesar dressings loaded with anchovy or, lately, miso mixed with mayonnaise (hey Mom!), studded with garlic and a dollop of mustard.

A small Portland-based miso company, Jorinji, makes authentic red and white unpasteurized miso from non-GMO soybeans fermented from six months to three years. Jorinji products are widely available at area supermarkets and last basically forever in the fridge. A little goes a long way, so get some and add a subtle hint of fabulous umami to your marinades, stir-fries, soups and braises.

This vinaigrette can also double as a dip for vegetables and fried foods, or as a drizzle over meats, fish and roasted veggies, and it's a splashy twist on a traditional coleslaw dressing.

Creamy Miso Vinaigrette

3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, pressed in a garlic press
1 Tbsp. white miso
Herbs, finely chopped (I like tarragon or thyme as well as some chopped chives)
1 tsp. honey (optional)

Combine ingredients and stir until smooth.

Salad Smackdown: Nectarine and Cherry Salad

Ginger Rapport's newsletters for the Beaverton Farmers Market are worth getting for the information and recipes she shares (click here to subscribe). Her deep knowledge of produce shines through, helped by her passion for cooking and education. Here she talks about the luscious Northwest peaches and nectarines tumbling into midsummer markets.

What is the difference between a peach and a nectarine? They are genetically almost the same with the exception of one gene, the one that determines if it will have a fuzzy or  smoothskin. A nectarine is basically a bald peach. They may be used interchangeably in recipes but as far as fresh eating goes, people can have strong opinions about which is best. Many people prefer nectarines because they don’t like the fuzz on a peach. It is more of a textural thing than it is about taste. However, nectarines tend to be firmer, sweeter and more aromatic than their fuzzy cousins.

To peel or not to peel?

Both peaches and nectarines come in “freestone” varieties, which means that the fruit separates easily from the pit and “clingstone” varieties where the flesh clings tightly to the pit. Freestones are better for freezing while clingstones are better for canning.

If you are making a recipe that calls for removing the skin of a peach or nectarine, we recommend the following method:

With a paring knife, make a small "X" in the skin on the bottom of the fruit. Then drop it into a large pot of boiling water for 10-20 seconds. You may do multiple fruits at a time as long as you are able to get them all out of the boiling water within a few seconds of one another. You want to loosen the skin, not cook the fruit.

Roasted nectarines, anyone?

Immediately place fruit in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Starting at the X on the bottom, lift the skin away from the fruit. It should peel easily if your fruit is ripe. If your fruit is under-ripe, peeling will be more difficult and may require a paring knife. (This is also how you peel tomatoes.)

Peach and nectarine season has a very small window where it overlaps with cherry season. One of our favorite—and totally easy—recipes that features both is this nectarine and cherry salad with roasted hazelnuts featuring Baird Family Orchards nectarines, Kiyokawa Family Orchards Bing cherries, and Ken and June's dry roasted hazelnuts.

Nectarine and Cherry Salad with Roasted Hazelnuts

1 1/2 lbs. nectarines (yellow or white) sliced
1 1/2 c. Bing cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 c. roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Combine all ingredients (reserving some chopped nuts) in a bowl and toss. Garnish with remaining hazelnuts.

Get more fabulous peach (or nectarine) recipes for desserts, jams, salads and even cocktails! The Beaverton Farmers Market is an advertiser and supporter of Good Stuff NW.

Dress for Success: Avocado Caesar Dressing

As often happens around here, this recipe started with leftovers: half an avocado from lunch and a few filets of anchovies floating in their jar in the fridge, a lemon that had been zested to death sitting in the bin, a few heads of Little Gem lettuces from Groundwork Organics I'd bought at the farmers' market last weekend. Plus scads of blooming chives waving at me from the herb bed.

Dave was jonesing to light the grill, and had bought some gorgeous Carman Ranch pasture-raised top sirloin steaks to throw on for dinner. So, since nothing pairs with medium-rare beef better than a hefty Caesar salad, I decided to try my luck with a from-scratch Caesar dressing using that avocado. Mayonnaise-y emulsified dressings are always a little fraught for me even with a recipe, since I've had a few that never "emulsed" (is that a word?) and remained a watery mess in the processor.

My favorite easy Caesar dressing is one from the classic Silver Palate Cookbook, so I adapted its basic proportions and crossed my fingers as I drizzled the olive oil into the processor's feed tube. And voila, the magic worked! Drizzled over those Little Gems and garnished with scattered chive blossoms, it looked—and tasted—fabulous. Next time I may not wait until I have the leftovers gathered to make it!

Avocado Caesar Dressing

1/2 avocado
1 egg yolk
1 lg. clove garlic
1/2 tsp salt
6 anchovy filets
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped chives
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Chive blossoms (optional)

Place avocado, egg yolk, garlic, salt, anchovy filets and lemon juice in bowl of food processor and process briefly to combine. While processor is on, drizzle olive oil in a thin stream through the feed tube until it emulsifies. Pour out into medium mixing bowl and stir in chopped chives and freshly ground pepper. Toss dressing with salad greens and garnish with chive blossoms.