Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer . . . Oops, someone may have beaten me to that line.
Anyway hopefully the salad season is almost upon us so I thought it worth looking at what has become perhaps the most versatile sauce in the modern day cook's repertoire - the vinaigrette.
It is a sauce that changed the world of salads for me when I was first introduced to it back in the late 1960s. In its simplest basic form just oil, vinegar and seasoning to some of the most complex forms using duck fat to replace the oil for a special duck salad shows the versatility available to the cook when it comes to making a vinaigrette. The most important element of any good vinaigrette is to ensure you use the right ingredients - mediocre ingredients will produce a mediocre dressing.
Like many classic French recipes the vinaigrette has a simple formula - three parts fat to one part acid. By varying the kinds of oil, e.g. neutral oil, olive, walnut, hazelnut, avocado etc you simply widen the spectrum of the vinaigrette and correctly using them you have an amazing tool for any cook.
Then again by using duck fat, bacon fat etc you can produce a delicious emulsified style of vinaigrette which will be nothing short of superb over a simple baby spinach leaf salad. At the same token you can vary your vinegar such as sherry or champagne or even balsamic or use a different kind of acid such as citrus juice or even ver juice. Each choice will determine the outcome.
Today let's make a real basic vinaigrette and once you have made the basic and got to enjoy that please experiment further and this summer enjoy some delicious salads with your own created vinaigrettes.
1 1/2 cups neutral oil - (I find rice bran suitable)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
Combine the mustard and vinegar in a blender on medium speed for about 15 seconds.
With the blender still running on slow carefully drizzle half a cup of the oil. Note don't be tempted to add all the oil to the blender or the vinaigrette will become too thick. It should become nice and creamy.
Transfer the vinaigrette to a small bowl and whisking constantly slowly stream in the remaining 1 cup of oil.
There you have it. This week for our salad let's add a tablespoon of fine herbs and add it to a mixture of salad leaves for a simple salad.
Fine herbs are often found in French recipes. They are a mixture of italian parsley, tarragon, chervil and chives. They are sometimes used whole but more often reasonably finely chopped. This elegant combination of soft herbs has been round for quite some time. Back in the early part of last century it was fashionable to add the herbs to a simple salad. The herbs are spectacular with the delicate flavour of eggs so complement many salads. They are also handy to add to meats, fish and vegetables enhancing their freshness with little effort. They are all common herbs and easy to grow at home.
Chervil, which is somewhat like tarragon, is an anise flavoured herb and is the only member of the group that is perhaps less commonly available. If you can't find it simply omit it.
Parsley adds a somewhat bitter note and chives a sweet oniony component and by combining these flavours you will find they are far more satisfying than any single herb could possibly be on its own.
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