Good night, gorilla

lemony-avocado corn salad with cheddar gougères

I was catching up with a friend this morning, telling her how Lucas wants to read the same book over and over and over again … he crawls into my lap with it whenever he can, and will sit for as long as I let him, reading and re-reading … and each time he sees the giraffe (erRAF!), or the mouse with his banana (NANA!), or the lion (RAAARRRRR!) – it is a revelation.

kale and wheat berry salad

He never, ever gets sick of it.

dressing to be

Not the third time and not the thirty-third time. Each banana is met with enthusiasm and excitement, with joy in the discovery. It sometimes seems like he could read with me like this all day, every day, forever.

wheat berries in dressing

And then tonight I joked about how he inherited that repeat-repeat trait from Kyle, who would happily eat the same turkey sandwich every day for lunch, maybe forever (vacations excepted).

readying the salad

And then Kyle pointed out that we had basically eaten the same thing for dinner every day, for three days.

batter

And then I pointed out that, hello, kale and watercress are totally different greens.

ready to bake

But he did have a point.

baked gougères

I guess, in a way, this salad dressing is my Good Night, Gorilla. I find it to be a revelation every time I encounter it – and the slightest tweaks in intonation, whether amping up the lemon or grinding in some black pepper, make it seem new and fresh all over again.

baked gougères

good night gorilla

Lucas goes hunting for his favorites (he has a large copy and a smaller one) whenever he’s milling around the house and not sure what to do. I go whisking up this dressing whenever I have some things sitting around my kitchen that need to be miraculously combined into dinner.

gougères

(Actually, lately, I don’t even work this with a whisk – I just throw everything in a bowl and Jacob hand-blenders it. This makes everyone happy).

hand blender

Here are two different dinner salads you can make with this dressing – the first, with kale and wheat berries, was inspired by Heidi’s recent kale market-salad post. The second, with thin curls of summer veggies and sweet bits of corn, was inspired by the actual market.

And the gougères/cheesy-puff-biscuits? I know they’re not in season, at least in the sense that not everyone wants their oven at 425 F right now (Tara I’m looking at you) – but they are so easy to make. And a couple of gougères alongside one of these salads is something I could eat for dinner every day.

Maybe even every day, forever.

salad and gougères

Green Gorilla Dressing :)
This dressing was originally inspired by the Green Goddess Dressing in Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters and company … but is now much simpler than the original, which calls for five different spices, anchovies, and cream. This is more of a lemony-avocado dressing than a true Green Goddess. I take a lot of liberties here whenever I make this – more or less lemon juice, lemon zest in or out, shallots only or chives or a combination of the two … sometimes I use water to thin it, sometimes oil, depending on what I’m working with and what I have on hand. But this is a tried and true version, and one that everyone at our house really loves – even Lucas, who by the way will *still* not eat plain avocado, though he’ll eat this dressing on most anything (even kale). Go figure.

1 small shallot, chopped
4-5 fresh chives, chopped
1 or 2 lemons, zest and juice
1/2 a ripe avocado
Pinch of salt
Tablespoon or two of white wine or white balsamic vinegar
Ground black pepper (to taste – I sometimes omit this)

To thin the dressing: 2-3 tablespoons of water, good olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil, or whatever you prefer. (Alice also uses cream in the original, but I prefer to keep it plant-based).

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Blend with hand blender until relatively smooth. Thin to desired consistency.

Once you have made the dressing, you can mix your salad right in to the bowl. Here are two we have had this past week, both excellent:

Kale and Wheat Berry Salad
Make one batch Green Gorilla dressing. Into the bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups cooked sonora wheat berries and 3 cups chopped fresh kale, plus the other half of the avocado, cut into chunks. Top with slivers of toasted almonds.

Fresh Corn, Watercress and Spring Vegetable Salad
Spring moves in to summer, and we have fennel bulbs and fresh corn both at the market! Make one batch Green Gorilla dressing. Into the bowl, mix kernels cut off of two ears of fresh corn, one fennel bulb very thinly sliced, two carrots peeled and cut into thin curls (use your vegetable peeler or a mandoline), one bunch of watercress (stems removed), and the other half of the avocado, cut into chunks. Top with slivers of toasted almonds.

Gougères/Cheesy-Puff-Biscuits
I was always scared to make gougères, until Heidi posted this last year. Here’s the big secret: they are so easy to make! But they are so light and crisp, and they seem like they must be really hard to make. I promise, they are not! Heidi has a great run-down of what her tips are for making them successfully, but here is what I would say are the keys: mix everything really well. Bake it a minute or two longer than you think you should. Let them cool for a few minutes before you touch them.

After you have made these once, it will probably occur to you to make them all the time. They are a terrific accompaniment for salads, soups, or even brunch-time eggs (because who says you can’t double down on cheese?). They are also quick, and you probably have everything you need on hand. Also, remember that this recipe makes 25-30 gougères, so while it sounds heavy (and they are rich-tasting) they are actually really light and puffed full with air.

Kyle would like me to include here that the crispy edge-bits taste like the cheese crackers of his youth.

1 cup milk (or, half milk half water)
8 tablespoons butter (that’s one whole stick)
1/2 teaspoon salt
scant 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
scant 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cup sharp cheddar or gruyere, grated

Preheat oven to 425 F, with a rack in the top third. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Bring the milk, butter, and salt almost to a boil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the flours and use a wooden spoon to really stir them well – it will be lumpy and feel like you are making a roux. That’s okay. Keep stirring until the dough comes together and gives off a faint toasty scent (about three minutes).

Remove from heat and let cool – it should be cool enough that the eggs won’t cook when you add them to the dough. Add the four eggs one at a time, working each one in very well. When you are done, you should have a smooth and slightly shiny batter (see photo above).

Stir in 1 cup of the cheese, and then use a spoon and your finger to put piles of batter onto the parchment lined baking sheet – heaping tablespoons. Leave at least 1 1/2 inches between dollops. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese, a pinch over each.

Bake for five minutes at 425 F, then turn the heat down to 375 F. Bake 20 minutes, or until gougères are deeply golden all over (if some are browning too quickly, rotate your pan half way through cooking). They should be puffed up and well set.

This does make a lot, so I like to freeze half the dough: shape the gougères on parchment paper, sprinkle with cheese, and freeze sitting flat for half an hour or so. Transfer to a freezer bag – they can be baked straight from the freezer, with a couple of extra minutes added if needed.

You might also like:

Beatjack

Tummy time

Every day

8 thoughts on “Good night, gorilla

  1. Ha ha! Shades are pulled and all the ceiling fans are whirring and no way am I turning on the oven… but we have some fine bakeries not far away. A dinner salad and something fresh baked (in somebody else’s oven) might be just what the weather guy ordered tonight. Speaking of weather guys (and gals), why are they always right about the beastly weather, but so often wrong about the other kind?

    • I hope you can stay cool! Almost every morning Kyle says “what is the weather supposed to be like today?” and then starts messing around on the iPhone – and while he does that I step out on to the porch and say “feels like it’s going to be (warm/cold/hot/)” – I best the iPhone almost every time :)

  2. I am in love with this post for two reasons: 1) my youngest son and my niece are just crazy about Good Night Gorilla! We call it the “banana book” as he likes to point out the banana on each page. and 2) yum! I cannot wait to have time to try these recipes. Thank you!

    • Ha, I think Lucas calls it the banana book too actually – or, at least, when he picks it up he usually yells “NANA!” You’ll have to let me know if you give them a try – I am always so curious to hear what people think :)

  3. Pingback: Sucker punched « sunshineandsalad

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