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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Salad Days

I have come to the conclusion that there is very little you can't make better yourself.  Sometimes, as with bagels (more on that another time),  it's not really worth the effort.  But often, that little bit of time it takes to do it yourself makes a world of difference. Now, I am no advocate of making work for myself, so when I'm telling you it's worth making your own salad dressing, you have to believe me.

I have kind of a love hate relationship with salad.  When I make a salad to serve with dinner, I must admit it's often an after thought and the finished product is uninspiring.  Some romaine lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, and maybe a couple of olives.  Nothing to write home about, right?  But add a homemade lemon vinaigrette to that and all of a sudden, the salad's a lot more interesting.

Last summer we were in Cape Cod and we happened upon a store called Gustare (www.gustareoliveoil.com).  They had dozens of vinegars ranging from balsamic to grapefruit to chocolate.  They also had a wide variety of olive oils to choose from as well.  "Why," I asked myself, "do I buy salad dressing when I could make my own using a really unusual vinegar?"  I bought a selection of oils and vinegars and have been having a great old time ever since.

The really nice thing about making your own salad dressing is that you can whip something up that perfectly compliments whatever you're having for dinner.  If we're having fish, I like a citrus vinegar; beef demands something a little richer and heavier, like an aged balsamic.

Making a vinaigrette is not brain surgery.  Just a couple of ingredients, a whisk, and all of sudden a mundane salad becomes something far more interesting.  Give it a try!

Dijon Vinaigrette


1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
3 tbl. champagne vinegar
salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Combine Dijon, garlic, and champagne vinegar.  Add the olive oil and whisk to form an emulsion.  Season with salt and pepper

Lemon Vinaigrette


3 tbl. fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 large shallot, minced
1 tbl. fresh oregano, minced
1 1/2 tsp. italian parsley, minced
salt and pepper
3/4 cup olive oil

Combine the lemon juice, garlic, shallot, oregano, and italian parsley.  Whisk in the olive oil to form an emulsion.  Season with salt and pepper.

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