Friday, February 3, 2012
Crudités And Tea At The Ritz - Plus A Recipe For Easy Vinaigrette
When I was little, my mother referred to the ubiquitous carrot sticks, celery stalks, and black olives served together as "crudités", and it tickles me every time I hear the term, and you know that it's used a lot these days. But then my mother was smarter and a lot classier than the other mothers in the low rent neighborhood we grew up in. She used to bake a loaf of bread, (in fact she always made her own bread, as did I when I had young kids to feed), and slice it lengthwise into three "layers". Then she would use two different fillings, stick the whole thing back together and cut it into slices. (She usually did this once a year.) She told us this was how they served it when you had Tea at the Ritz (in London). Did we believe her? Not really. Was she right? Absolutely. The first time I had Tea at the Ritz in London, they served just such a thing. It turns out that my mother had been to London as a child and had Tea at the Ritz and even thought she never had the kind of money her parents did, she took some of those elegant touches and used them whenever she could. Thinking about this reminded me of her Vinaigrette, which I whipped up to marinate some mushrooms for tomorrow. She would take 1/3 cup vinegar, (wine vinegar if possible), 1 cup oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp dried mustard, (or 1 tbsp prepared Dijon), 1 tsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp ground black pepper. She would shake it up, but I like to stand a wire whip up in it and roll the handle between my palms until it looks creamy. (Think about that Boy Scout demonstration trying to start a fire.) To vary it, sometimes 1 tsp paprika got thrown in for good measure. Then she would put it on a lot of weird stuff that no one else ever served, like uncooked spinach. That's right - prior to the '60, no one in the US would dream of serving spinach raw. Good Times!