First, a bit of housekeeping: regular readers, please note that I’ve changed my posting days to Tuesdays and Fridays. Thanks!
Second, I know, the title of this post makes no sense. Yet. Read on.
The Midwestern Gentleman’s birthday was last week. I didn’t want this happy day to get lost in the shuffle of our tiny wedding and honeymoon trip to the North Shore (yes, our lives are currently an embarrassment of celebrations), so I decided to plan a surprise party in our newly outfitted backyard. This was an incredibly stupid idea, given that the Gent’s birthday fell mid-week, and he and I were out of state for the long weekend beforehand. Thankfully, with the cheerful assistance of our friend Kori, and generous pot-luck action from our other talented friends, we were still able to pull together a fantastic spread.
The Gent’s favorite restaurant in town is The Cafe, and his favorite offering at The Cafe is the Somerset Salad, a composed salad sporting an array of delicious components (see menu snapshot, above) served with a tangy buttermilk basil dressing. This salad is such an intriguingly balanced blend of flavors and textures that when a friend and colleague visiting Ames tasted it, she became obsessed with recreating it back home. She even emailed The Cafe about it. Check out this gorgeous photo and description of her own unique reworking of the salad.
For the Gent’s party, I laid out a buffet based on the Cafe’s Somerset Salad components, with the addition of baby spinach, sunflower seeds, shredded rotisserie chicken, and brown sugar smoked lake trout, as well as a choice of buttermilk basil dressing or a brown mustard balsamic vinaigrette.
Not only did the buttermilk dressing get rave reviews from guests, it contains inflammation-fighting olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs. To give the dressing some richness and body, I used Greek yogurt. These fermented milk products — the buttermilk, the yogurt — are easier to digest and less inflammation-promoting than regular dairy or omega-6-heavy mayonnaise, and they give the dressing a terrific tang (recipe below).
Of course, a birthday party isn’t complete without a cake, so I ordered the Gent’s favorite carrot cake from… yep, you guessed it — The Cafe.
Buttermilk Basil Dressing
3/4 cup 2% or more Greek yogurt (not non-fat)
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 small clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 Tbsp fruity, good quality olive oil
1/4 cup finely shredded fresh basil
1/2 tsp favorite garlic or onion salt seasoning blend
(I used the Spice House’s Ukrainian Village Seasoning)
salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Or, combine them in a mason jar and shake until smooth. Chill for at least one hour before serving, to allow the flavors time to meld.