Missing Ingredient: Blue Eyes

Times Staff Writer

If Michael Finch had a name like, say, Paul Newman, he would probably be retired by now instead of laboring every day teaching people how to use computers.

Finch, 41, of San Clemente, bottled his own salad dressing long before the actor did, but the sales were confined to a small group of restaurants in Colorado. And, possibly because the label didn't include a set of sky-blue eyes, Finch's product didn't exactly take off, so he completed his education and got involved with computers.

That does not mean he took a hiatus from the kitchen, however--far from it. Finch does most of the cooking for himself and wife-business partner Denise and spends a good deal of time each month planning a regular cooking competition with friend Tony Lipka of Dana Point.

And they go all out for the competition, according to Finch's wife. "One month Mike cooked a Mexican dinner, and we all dressed in costumes," she said. "Another month, he did a Greek dinner. In between, Tony cooked soul food--barbecued ribs, chicken, greens, homemade corn bread and sweet potato pie. Joleen (Lipka) and I love having our men cook for us. It's great fun . . . something to look forward to each month."

Fun it may be, but there's a serious side to the competition, too, according to Finch. "We have certain ground rules, like everything has to be fresh and everything has to be made from scratch, so we're always trying to catch one another at taking shortcuts."

Finch said he didn't begin cooking until he was 21 and out on his own. "I had hung around the kitchen a lot as a kid watching my mother but really didn't get into it myself until I was forced to. I couldn't afford to eat out and I liked good food, so necessity made me get handy with food."

The salad dressing, which he shared with Guys & Galleys, was developed from a basic oil and vinegar recipe he received from a French neighbor years ago. "I kept fooling with it, adding a little of this and a little of that until it reached what I consider a point of perfection."

Finch and his wife own National Training Corp., a consulting firm specializing in establishing computer training for large companies. He works at the house and she's the "outside man," so he has time to squeeze in cookbook reading and planning for the monthly competition.

MICHAEL FINCH'S READY-TO-BOTTLE SALAD DRESSING

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons dill-garlic vinegar

2 tablespoons Grey Poupon mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt

1 teaspoon herb pepper

1 teaspoon parsley

2 teaspoons fines herbes

3 teaspoons Pinch of Herbs

1 teaspoon sweet basil

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon paprika

5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon light brown sugar

1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon

Preparation

Mix olive oil and vinegar. Add all other ingredients and mix well with a wire whisk or seal in a bottle and shake until well-blended. (Makes 2 cups dressing.)

Each week, Orange County Life spotlights a man who enjoys cooking, along with one of his favorite recipes. Tell us about your candidate. Write to: Guys & Galleys, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.

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