Friday, March 18, 2011

Dress it up

When the weather starts to warm up each year, I find myself looking forward to the first spring vegetables.  There's nothing like seeing early lettuces, broccoli and other goodies hitting the farmers market. I inevitably start thinking of all the things I'm going to make with them.

I love vegetables, but I usually prefer them raw or very, very lightly steamed. I like the crunch and the taste of raw veggies. As a result, I enjoy a lot of salads.  I eat salad at least once per day, just about every day.  I like to mix it up with different kinds of greens, veggies and dressings to keep things interesting.  About a year ago, I read the ingredients in one of my favorite bottled dressings and was a little baffled. It's a simple vinegar and oil dressing, but I couldn't even pronounce half of the stuff in it.  Feeling disillusioned and annoyed, I decided that I would make my own dressings from there on out.  And I did.  It's quick and easy, and once I learned a base recipe or two, the combinations seemed endless.  Best of all, I control exactly what's in it. No more xanthan gum or calcium disodium for me!

The following is my favorite fool-proof basic vinaigrette recipe.  It's very flavorful and the mustard helps to bind the oil and vinegar into something creamy and wonderful (don't worry - the dressing doesn't taste strongly of mustard). You can jazz it up by adding minced shallots or fresh herbs like parsley, chives or tarragon. I use my small food processor for making the base, rather than the blender. Either one will work. Get a couple of squirt bottles for storage, and you're good to go.

House Vinaigrette, by Thomas Keller
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups canola oil (you can use vegetable oil, but don't substitute olive oil here, it's too heavy)

Combine the mustard and vinegar in a blender and blend at medium speed for about 15 seconds.  With the machine running, slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup of the oil.  Don't be tempted to add all of the oil to the blender, or the vinaigrette will becomg too thick.  It should be very creamy.

Transfer the vinaigrette to a small bowl and, whisking constantly, slowly stream in the remaining 1 cup oil. The dressing can be refrigerated for up to two weeks. Should the vinaigrette separate, use a blender or immersion blender to re-emulsify it (a vigorous shake of the bottle usually works too).

Go get those veggies!

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