Salad Dressing of the Week: Sherry Vinegar and Hazelnut Vinaigrette
sherry vinegar and hazelnut vinaigrette

Last night I was having dinner with some of my favorite lady friends, and we were talking about salad dressings, as you do with your lady friends.  They were saying that they each always make their same standby dressing, and were enjoying this new blog feature to help get out of their ruts.

We shared what each of our quick, don't have to think about it, dressing recipes are, and I had forgotten that for the longest time this one was mine.  The mellow rounded sweetness of the sherry vinegar and the rich roasted nuttiness of the hazelnut oil are a combination that is tough to beat.  It also makes one of my favorite birthday or hostess gifts.  A bottle of each, and perhaps some great salad servers, have yet to make anyone unhappy.

Use this dressing as an excuse to use up any hazelnuts that are left over in your pantry from some long-forgotten holiday cookie recipe.  I love subtly mirroring the dressing in the salad ingredients.

Sherry Vinegar and Hazelnut Vinaigrette
by Catie Baumer Schwalb

1 part sherry vinegar (Get the best you can find.  This is one of those ingredients it does make a difference, and does last a long time.)
3 parts roasted hazelnut oil
salt, to taste

Combine vinegar and salt in a bowl, stirring gently to combine.  In a slow, thin, even stream, drizzle the oil into the vinegar while whisking constantly.  Taste by dipping a salad leaf into the dressing.  Adjust salt, if desired.

Salad Dressing of the Week: Fresh Oregano and Dijon Vinaigrette
fresh oregano dijon vinaigrette

For another step in my continued fight to close down the salad dressing aisle in grocery stores, I'll offer you a homemade salad dressing recipe each week.

Fresh oregano certainly has a pronounced flavor, but actually so much more mellow and herbal and complex than what dried drab green flecks and pizza restaurant shakers have lead you to believe.  We had this dressing last night on crisp fresh red leaf romaine, a small handful of fresh sorrel leaves (both sliced into ribbons, both from our garden), cucumber, and a generous handful of toasted sesame seeds.

This vinaigrette would also be incredible on a salad of baby spinach, chickpeas and sliced hardboiled egg, or as a base for a potato salad.

Also, P.S., oregano is probably the most idiot-proof herb to grow, super hearty, pops up first in the spring and faithfully returns each year.  Grab a plant and stick it almost anywhere in your yard now for years of salad dressings and marinaras to come.

Fresh Oregano and Dijon Vinaigrette
by Catie Baumer Schwalb
Makes enough to dress one 4-person salad.

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, depending on how mellow or sharp you prefer the flavor

Combine vinegar and oregano leaves in a medium sized bowl, bruising leaves gently with a whisk to infuse the vinegar a bit.  Allow to sit for a few minutes.  Add dijon mustard and a small pinch of salt and black pepper, and whisk gently to combine.

In a thin, slow, constant stream, pour the olive oil into the vinegar mixture while whisking constantly.  After adding three tablespoons of oil, check the flavor.  If it feels a little tart or too strong, add an additional bit of oil to round out the flavor.  Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.


Preserved Meyer Lemons
pitchfork diaries

April 1st.  The "I think I can, I think I can..." continues.  I think I can make it to the end of this relentless Catskill's winter.  Right now, even as I type this, one day after we were admiring deep purple crocuses at my mother's for Easter, there are wide swirls of snow flurries mocking me outside the windows over my desk.

But the garden seeds have been ordered.  Seedlings will be started shortly.  And our neon pink rhubarb stalks have just broken through the cold muddy ground.  And chives.  And oregano.  Maybe ramps next.

In the meantime, while I am fantasizing about warm weather cooking, getting to take daily advantage of vibrant fresh produce, with their bright colors and refreshing textures, I'm tucking away some other favorite produce, soon to be gone until the late fall. (more…)


Though disappearing soon, cherry tomatoes are still adorning the tables of the farmers markets, and a few are hanging on to the vines for dear life in our gardens.

I am trying to take advantage of them now as much as I can, as I know that too shortly I'll be making deals with the devil to have that flavor available to me in more blustery months.  One of my favorite recipes is Roasted Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette, which can also be canned for use later on, and I made sure was on the menu at my wedding.  Another is the outrageously delicious Caramelized Cherry Tomato Tarte Tatin, from the New York Times a few years back, that is so good I felt like I was tasting a cherry tomato for the very first time.

Seize the moment, and get these juicy gems while you can.

Last minute gifts: Recipe Kits
The Kitchn.com recently had a great piece with a bunch of ideas for gift kits that include everything to make a new recipe or culinary project.  From kimchi to ricotta to granola, the article suggests groupings of ingredients, instructions and any special container or tool.

I've done similar things for gifts through the years, and while usually a big hit, I also love giving a gift that gets my friend to learn, try or taste something new.  But even better, what is so great about this gift idea is not that it is filled with expensive or hard to find items, but that you've simply done all of the organization and planning for them.  Most of the items are right on the shelves of your food store, and can be easily obtained...even at this late date!  And if you're not ordering it, or shipping it, you can be a little more liberal with perishable items, leaving the playing field wide open.  Throw in a recipe card, cookbook, or utensil and you are a gift givin' fool.

So here are a few of my own "kits" and ideas.  Feel free to steal them.  And please let me hear any ideas of your own in the comments.

Vinaigrette Kit:  Hazelnut Oil + Sherry Vinegar.  I just gave this as a gift this weekend!  This is one of my very favorite combinations for a vinaigrette, and I love introducing friends to it.  Make your own combination.  Throw in a snazzy pair of salad tongs.

Risotto Kit:  arborio rice + generous hunk of great parmesan + organic onions + dried porcini mushrooms + wooden spoon or dry white wine.  For that special someone, splurge on a risotto pan.

Regional Kit:  Head to a spice shop or ethnic grocer, particularly if you're in an urban area, and stock up on an intoxicating array of spices from one region or country or cuisine.  Print out a few recipes or throw in a cookbook.  If you're in New York City, check out Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights or online, and Kalustyan's in Manhattan and online.

Oyster Kit:  oyster knife + protective gloves + ingredients for mignonette sauce (black peppercorns, shallots, and Champagne, Red or White Wine Vinegar).  And maybe an ice crusher?

Chocolate Covered Grape Kit:  Gorgeous seedless grapes + unsweetened cocoa + great dark chocolate + this amazing recipe from Michel Richard

Date in a Box! I just gave this as a first anniversary present!!  A great bottle of champagne + fresh cherries + baguette + couple of great cheese + some charcuterie or fixin's for Shrimp Cocktail + chocolates.

Or pick out your favorite recipe, sweet or savory, print up the recipe on a eye-catching card, gather up all easily transportable ingredients, stick a bow on it and voila!

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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

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