239
967
173
O
ctober
15
Salad Dressing 101


Just about four years ago, Mark Bittman wrote a great piece in the New York Times; A Well-Dressed Salad Wears Only Homemade, and it got me thinkin'.  Why did salad dressings feel like such a mystery?  Why is there usually a huge amount of grocery store real estate devoted to them?  Why are they so darn expensive?

A recent peek at dressings in my grocery store upstate, showed even the cheapest dressings at around $2.50 for an 8 oz bottle, jumping to $3.59 a bottle for something just slightly more natural.  That's $40-57 a gallon--compare that to something like the price at the pump, and it feels like complete lunacy.

The other glaring issue I noticed was that sugar, often in the form of high fructose corn syrup, and WATER, frequently make up two of the first three ingredients.  Again, lunacy.

A few weeks ago I did a cooking demonstration at a local harvest festival.  Showcasing the gorgeous local produce (supplied by Beaver Dam Brook Farm in Ferndale, NY), I did a brief primer on dressings and vinaigrettes.  As I was myself when I first started cooking, many of the audience members at my cooking demos were surprised at how fast and simple it was to make a vinaigrette.  And so much less expensive while eliminating chemicals, emulsifiers, and that big dose of unnecessary sugar.  It seemed crazy that there we were, at a huge farmers' market, a group of people devoted to buying the freshest, least traveled, produce, and yet were not thinking much about then topping that produce with something that was possibly over a year old (when purchased, not to mention the time it has sat on that narrow shelf on the door of your refrigerator), gooey, syrupy, and most likely swimming with ingredients from a factory and not a farm.

So here's the basic formula:

1 part acid + about 3 parts oil + seasonings and flavoring agents

Put the acid in a bowl with the seasonings and flavoring ingredients, if using.  If you have time, allow that to sit for 5-10 minutes to better infuse the vinegar.  Then while whisking continually, pour the oil into the acid, in a slow, steady stream.  The mixture will begin to come together and emulsify.  You can also do the same, a bit quicker, with a fork for a "broken" vinaigrette.  Or make things very easy and put it in a blender, instead of a bowl, in the same order, streaming the oil in the top while the blade is going.  This works particularly well if adding fruit or vegetables for flavor.

Most commonly, extra virgin olive oil is used, but gorgeously flavored hazelnut, walnut, pumpkin seed, and avocado oils are also becoming widely available.  The acid can be lemon juice, lime juice, vinegars (balsamic, white or red wine, sherry, rice, cider) or a combination.  Season with salt and pepper, and flavor with shallot, garlic, mustard, pureed fruit or juice, honey, pureed roasted vegetables, fresh herbs, dried herbs, or ground spices.  One of my favorites is a three-ingredient vinaigrette of lemon juice, sea salt, and hazelnut oil over a green salad with roasted beets.

Experiment with some of these combinations:

olive oil + white wine vinegar + dijon mustard (just a dab), minced shallots and garlic (a classic)

grapeseed oil + rice vinegar + fresh mango (pureed in a blender), season with salt and pepper to taste

olive oil + sherry vinegar + roasted red peppers (again season and puree in a blender)

walnut oil + white wine vinegar + roasted fennel and roasted garlic

olive oil + lime juice + honey and ground cumin

or this Roasted Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette, I posted recently.

The formula is simple, it's not rocket science, you can hardly go wrong, and the options are so much more rewarding than the same-old same-old you'll find on the dusty eye-level shelf at your store.  Do yourself a huge favor, work this into your life.  Experiment, taste, and experiment some more.  Tonight.


327
1059
263
M
arch
07
Pea Shoot, Celeriac, Apple and Hazelnut Salad


One of the toughest parts of eating almost exclusively locally in Upstate, NY, is the lack of bright, refreshing, crunchy, raw foods and salads in the colder months. We are overflowing in hearty carrot and squash soups, but there are definitely days I would kill for the snap of a thick slice of fresh cucumber.

This week, particularly with the few amazing days of spring-promised sunshine we've had, I was already dreaming of getting started on my gardens, and craving some food of much warmer months. I did, however, gather at the farmer's market a collection of ingredients that came together for a great salad. When tested on my husband, the review was-- "Refreshing!". Perfect.



PEA SHOOT, CELERIAC, APPLE AND HAZELNUT SALAD

by Catie

Serves 4

2 large tart green apples (I used Mutzu apples from Migliorelli Farm)

1 medium celeriac (from Muddy River Farm in Goshen, NY)

Medium handful of pea shoots, about 1 oz (from Two Guys from Woodbridge hydroponic farm, in Hamden, CT)

1/4 cup toasted and chopped hazelnuts

for the dressing:

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 TBS hazelnut oil

salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the rough exterior off the celeriac, and cut the inner white part into thin matchsticks. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Have ready a bowl of ice water. When water is boiling, put in cut celeriac and blanch until al dente, about 30 seconds, depending on the size of the pieces. Immediately scoop out with slotted spoon and shock in ice water. Drain and dry.

Cut apples in small cubes. Wash and dry pea shoots.

Put cider vinegar in large bowl. Slowly add hazelnut oil in thin stream while whisking constantly. Season with salt and pepper.

Add celeriac, apple, pea shoots, and hazelnuts to bowl. Toss with vinaigrette.

Gently mound salad on a plate. Sprinkle top with a few more nuts.



< Newer PostsOlder Posts >
{ welcome! }
Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

{ get in touch }


{ what's new }
September 12, 2015
August 19, 2013
August 15, 2013
August 13, 2013
August 1, 2013


{ favorites }


{ archives }


{ currently reading }