Tuesday, June 5, 2012

House Vinaigrette

Growing up, salad dressings were one of the hardest things for me to learn to make.  I mastered the Chinese ones early as there really aren't very many Chinese salads, but a good Vinaigrette took me years to figure out.  In fact, I was so frustrated for a long time that I was always on the hunt for a good bottled dressing and there are some out there.  I would read all the recipes and I would try many of them, but they never tasted like the ones at good French and Italian restaurants.  In fact, it got so that I would judge a restaurant by their salad dressings.  Finally - and not that many years ago - I figured out what I was doing wrong.

It was so simple - I just wasn't using a high enough quality olive oil or vinegar.  When I started spending more for those two ingredients, my salad dressings started to shine!  But I noticed something peculiar about myself.  I discovered that I don't really like vinegar that much.  I'm actually a bit Wood deficient (and my eyebrows aren't very big) and while I do like mildly sour things, vinegar can really be too strong. So I had to find a way to decrease the sourness without increasing the sugar too much and the best thing I found was aged Balsamic Vinegar.  It's almost caramel like in its' consistency.  However, if I jut used it by itself, it was too thick. So, I started mixing it with a good Red Wine Vinegar that has a bracing acidity.  Together, I created my favorite Italian style Vinaigrette.  

It's really easy to make and many of you may have mastered this one a long time ago, but my son asked me to post it so he wouldn't be able to make it.  I love this salad dressing the most with a salad composed of arugula, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion (marinated in the dressing) and some kind of Italian meat like salami cut up and also olives, Parmesan cheese and pickled peppers or artichokes if desired.  It's also amazing on leaf lettuce with cut up apples, dried sour cherries, hazelnuts (walnuts or almonds are good too)  and blue cheese (or Roquefort), which we call our Northwest Salad.  It's amazing!

So please spend a little extra on a high quality olive oil and Balsamic and Red Wine vinegars - it's worth it.  But in a pinch, Trader Joe's olive oil and vinegar are pretty good.  And don't forget to use enough salt and pepper. The original meaning of Salad is based on the word salt.  Remember to dress the salad lightly - you can always add more dressing. Hope you enjoy our salad dressing too!

House Vinaigrette

2 Tablespoons aged Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 large Garlic Clove minced (can also use 1 Tablespoon of minced Shallot or Red Onion)
1 teaspoon Sugar

Mix together all ingredients with a whisk.  Taste and adjust for sugar if necessary.  Let the dressing sit for 15 - 30 minutes to allow garlic or shallots or red onion marinate before dressing the salad.

Five Element Analysis

Vinegar is very sour so you know that this salad dressing is primarily a Wood food and the olive oil adds even more of the Wood Element.  The Metal Element also makes a fairly strong showing with the mustard and the garlic/shallots/red onions.  Since it is served with salad greens, which are Fiery, that element is covered so make sure to add in some nuts or cured meats to bring in the Water Element.  Then only the Earth Element needs support, which cucumber provides and so do almonds.  Then you will have a balanced dish all by itself!

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