I get many strange food cravings: crispy whole roasted suckling pig, intensely sweet mangosteens, farmer’s cheese speckled with lavender that I enjoyed in Australia, or, the brunt tips of bar-b-que brisket Texas style all call to me from to time to time. But if I can’t fulfill a moment I always can rely on the one craving I have had since childhood -- salad. I know, a salad how simple so bland. I beg to differ – the easy crunch of the vegetables; the bittersweet flavor of young green leaves; the complete satisfaction of a meal in a bowl. Simple yes, but how it can complete my hunger.
Subsequently it may come as no surprise that I love dressings. After all, they are the bow on the box. I grew up finessing green goddess with a bit more sour cream, Tabasco sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Then I was taught how to make vinaigrettes and my salad days really came alive. Now, I can play out my leafy desires to new heights not yet bottled.
Knowing how to make a basic vinaigrette is a foundation concept and something that everyone should be able to pull off – they are so easy, and quickly take on whatever flavor you want. It is helpful to have a flavorful olive oil in your pantry and a few different vinegars to choose from. All basic vinaigrettes are the same: vinegar, Dijon-style mustard, oil, salt and pepper. Do not get scared off by a name as you usually call a vinaigrette by a dominant or unique flavor contained within the formula. Once you master making salads dressing those bottles waiting to be purchased just won’t cut muster.
Basic Vinaigrette - yields approx. 1 cup
1/4 cup vinegar
1/8 cup chives - chopped
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup canola or olive oil
In a bowl mix together the vinegar, chives, mustard, salt and pepper. Then slowly whisk in the olive to thoroughly incorporate and emulsify the vinaigrette. In the refrigerator, store in the vinaigrette for up to one month.
1/2 pound beefsteak tomato
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon tahini paste
2 teaspoons roughly chopped dill leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Cut the tomato in half through its circumference in order to fully expose its seed pocket. Tease out the seeds and discard. Roughly chop the tomato and place in the blender or food processor. Add all other ingredients into the blender and process until completely smooth. Add additional water if the dressing is too thick. Serve over salad greens, grilled vegetable or grilled fish.