The Happy Hunny Pot

 




She claimed she only knew how to make coffee and toast. And then there was this delicious open-faced melt she would make: A piece of bread topped with sliced tomato, avocado and cheese—then placed in a hot oven until the cheese was all melted and divine, draping over the bread like a warm blanket. Sometimes if it was available, a slice of turkey would find its way into the mix. I’m talking about my lovely wife Renata, who I affectionately refer to as Mrs. W, and these references date back to when we first met nearly three decades ago.


 

 

 

In those days I was managing the lounge at the Marriott Hotel in Newport Beach, CA at Fashion Island. Renata was employed there too in the banquets division, but it was a transfer to the beverage department that set our paths to cross. To this day I count that crossing as a blessing of blessings.


 




As time would tell she learned of my cooking ability and I learned of hers. But in the beginning I sensed a wee bit of self-deprecation in her expression of the food she’d make in comparison to mine. It was endearing for I knew she had it in her—it just needed to be nurtured. After all, growing up, the kitchen was not her playground. Influentially speaking, she had two stellar cooks as role models: Her mother, a native of Germany and her abuela of Mexican heritage provided a foundation of world cuisine.


 



There’s an art to nurturing. On one hand, it requires encouragement and empowerment. On the other, critical truth plays a role to facilitate growth. Somewhere along the line, perhaps in a college psych course, I was introduced to the “sandwich theory” of critique: You start with a positive acknowledgement, followed by a negative (your honest impressions) and end with another positive remark. It’s an effective way to help someone who relies on your opinion and wants to grow; without sacrificing your integrity.

 



It wasn’t long before the flower of Mrs. W’s kitchen prowess began to open. It started with reading cookbooks and food magazines, asking for advice and feedback and honing in on her inner foodie. Nowadays she flies in the kitchen by instinct, which in my opinion is the benchmark of a good cook. Better yet, thanks to friends like Cheryl & Adamwho’ve piqued her interest in product purity andToni’s practice of local food sources, she’s turned her shopping decisions away from prepackaged ones laden with artificial additives, preservatives and HFCS. Suffice it to say, and as good of a spokesperson as Anna Maria Alberghetti was for Good Season’s Italian Dressing mix, it no longer takes residency in our pantry.

 


This past summer just as the sun began to push the mercury into the red, I spied some gorgeous herbs at the nursery. Knowing Renata had expressed interest in having some to accompany the vegetables I had planted in the garden; I picked them up without hesitation. As all the planter areas and containers were already occupied, I gave them the only home I had on hand which was a 10 gallon vessel. I called it the happy hunny pot. When I presented it to her she was happy and surprised, but it’s what she did with the bounty that grew form the pot which pleasantly surprised me.

 


 

Almost 30 years have passed since we crossed paths—a road I’m delighted to say we happily forge together in matrimony and as partners in the kitchen. And that delicious melt I mentioned? With its simplicity still intact it has elevated into something gourmet, worthy of placement on the lunch menu of any posh eatery, but served only by the ever-lovely Mrs. W.




Mrs. W’s quest for kitchen technique and fresh, wholesome food is what led her to devise this absolutely delicious, flavorful recipe—a fine example of California cuisine. I’m thrilled to share it with you and until you’re as lucky as I was to meet her, you’ll have to take my word that this dressing is every bit as vivacious as she!

Recipe by Renata Walker

VERY VIVACIOUS VINAIGRETTE

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Yield: Makes approximately 1 1/4 cup

VERY VIVACIOUS VINAIGRETTE

Featuring bold clean flavors this fresh herbal dressing is a snap to make. Bring a touch of California cuisine to your salad bowl tonight!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar (we use Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 large cloves fresh garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 rounded teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves, destemmed
  • 1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves, destemmed
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, mainly leaves—discard larger stems
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tellicherry pepper

Instructions

  • To a blender cup add all ingredients. Blend for about 2 minutes, then pulse the blender for another minute or so until the body of the dressing is emulsified, golden green in color with specks of herbs throughout (speckled slightly finer than typical pesto). Store refrigerated in a sealed container up to a week; prior to using bring to room temperature and re-stir or shake.

Notes

If beyond the growing season in your region, fresh herbs are available year round in most parts of the US. One each (rosemary and thyme) of the palm-sized, clear rectangular herb containers hanging in the refrigerated produce section of your grocer will suffice for the recipe. One bunch of Italian parsley will more than serve the recipe too. Should the champagne vinegar called for not be available to you, substitute with an equivalent citrus-flavored one. The salt and pepper measurements are adjustable according to your taste. Oil and vinegar separation of the vinaigrette is a natural occurrence and the oil will harden in the refrigerator—which is why you should remember to bring the dressing to near room temperature before use.

http://cakewalkr.com/very-vivacious-vinaigrette/

Comments

  1. Hopping over from G+ because that is some seriously good looking salad dressing and Mrs. Walker is talented indeed!

  2. What a wonderful story about how you met and how your loved blossomed! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I love Adam, Cheryl and Toni. Mrs. w has excellent taste. The dressing looks delicious.

    • You’re welcome Christiane, I’m grateful for your kind words. Give the vinaigrette a try…it’s kid tested and I’ll bet Dudette will enjoy it!

  3. Oh Brooks!! I’m totally inspired to replant some herbs!! I had a few in my garden last year, but we became infested with ants… the bug guy came and then said, “You don’t eat anything from there do you?? I’ve just sprayed poison all over everything and into the ground.” That was it for me, and I’ve been buying organic at the Farmer’s Market. I think I might try a pot like you did, that way I could control it. Unless the ants find it…!
    Love the story of how you two met and grew to love each other’s cooking! Her dressing is one my whole family would love. And… I happen to have the vinegar in my pantry!

    • Kim, I’m not surprised you have the vinegar in your pantry. With the exception of crawlers like pumpkins, squash and melons which are planted in the ground, all other edibles I grow in containers for the very reason you cited – control. Not only does container gardening keep insects in check, it lets you tailor soil and ammendments specific to optimal growth per plant variety. BTW, the Happy Hunny Pot flourished, but keep in mind plant spacing as the basil in that pot turned out to be a real estate hoarder!

  4. The salad dressing sounds (and looks) amazing, but the love story that accompanied it was even sweeter. Thanks for sharing your story, Brooks, and kudos to Renata for a lovely recipe. I think a salad & sandwich are now the order of the day.

    • Thanks Jeanne, I’m glad you enjoyed the story and I hope you and Michael will enjoy the vinaigrette too. It’s always a pleasure to have you here!

  5. Sounds fabulous. I’ll be trying this one. We don’t have a Trader Joes in Denver, I’ll have to shop around for the muscat vinegar.

    • Hi Lea Ann, delighted to hear you’ll give the recipe a try. There are several brands it seems for orange champagne vinegar…high end grocers and gourmet shops might be good sources, perhaps an internet search will help pinpoint one in your area. Best wishes!

  6. What a wonderful and romantic story! There’s nothing that can replace the amazing partnership of a good marriage and we are fortunate enough to share that blessing with you and Mrs. W. as well as your warm friendship. Adam’s view is that dressing is what makes salad edible and vinaigrette is hands down his favorite. This will be on the table soon!

    • I knew there was another reason why I like Adam…the relation of salad and dressing is akin to cake being a delivery vehicle for frosting! It’s good to know vinaigrette is his favorite. Mrs. W’s recipe has perked up my interest in a bowl of greens. After all, post holidays is typically salad season, right?

  7. Brooks as usual, a beautifully written and heart-warming story, and a vinaigrette recipe I will most definitely try!

  8. Lovely, lovely story! And I do love a good homemade vinaigrette. I don’t know why anyone would buy bottled or packaged dressings when a simple vinaigrette is so easy *and* sooooo much better.

  9. What a sweet story. And what a great looking dressing. :)

  10. Brooks, what a delightful story. I love reading about how you met Mrs. W, and the thought you put into her herb garden is so lovely! As well, thank you for a great recipe, I am always at loss of how to use the extra herbs from our garden.

    • Brooks Walker says:

      Denise, I’m glad you’ll be able to put those extra herbs to use. Thank you for visiting!

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