Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Salad Days

by Xani

I never thought I would do two posts on salad. Thought I said it all in the first one. After all, its just salad. We talked dressing, we talked greens, what's left??   Well, another year of salads has allowed me to discover a few more salad secrets. The biggest one is an adjustment in technique for my life-changing vinaigrette master recipe. Want to know how to make dressing one time but have a different flavor every night of the week?  Read on....

Previously we discussed the vinaigrette technique, and the many variations possible by changing the acid in the dressing and switching up the seasoning a bit. Really, the vinaigrette technique is a master recipe, able to be modified in all kinds of ways.

Well, I've taken this concept to a whole other level. I start by making a big batch (enough to fill a 16oz jar i keep for this purpose) of what I think of as the dressing base or starter. This is the basic vinaigrette recipe using what I consider the most neutral/adaptable flavors: lemon juice/white wine vinegar for the acid, minced shallot, Dijon mustard, kosher salt, ground black pepper, extra virgin olive oil. I know those flavors aren't usually considered "neutral"in the grand scheme of things, but in this preparation the combination creates a base flavor that is easy to build upon. Which is not to say this jar of dressing, as is, needs more flavor- it is delicious and can be used directly out of the jar. But, I'm about to get to that whole other level I told you about... The dressing can now be modified in dozens of ways. How?  Simple:

Shake up the jar of dressing base to reincorporate the ingredients if necessary (the acid and oil separate after a while). Then pour out the amount you need for your salad (I use about 1/4 cup for a salad that generously serves 2-3) into a measuring cup or even the bottom of your empty salad bowl. To this you can now add flavors and ingredients to make it a completely different dressing. Additional acid, cheese, herbs, fruits- the possibilities go on and on. Really all you need to do is sufficiently incorporate the new ingredient(s) into the dressing base, usually just by whisking, although cheese and other soft ingredients benefit from being lightly mashed into the dressing with a fork before whisking everything together to combine. Here are some of my favorites I've discovered so far:

  • Greek: mash feta into base, whisk in chopped oregano and red wine vinegar 
  • Ceasar: mash a couple anchovies into base, whisk in parmesan, and a pinch of dry mustard 
  • Tahini: whisk into base with a little extra lemon juice 
  • Pesto: add a tablespoon or so, any pesto will do, I just made a great one with carrot tops and parsley! 
  • Citrus zest/juice: make it lemon-ier, lime-y, grapefruit-y, orange-y, etc. 
  • Jam/preserves: a spoonful of fruit preserves adds a little sweetness and a lot of flavor 
  • Herbs (one type or mixed): a basil vinaigrette is summery and delicious (ooh and how about throwing some chopped sundried tomatoes in there, too), but I often pinch a few leaves off each of my herbs plants (parsley, mint, cilantro, basil) chop them all together and voila, herb vinaigrette! 
  • Mayo/flavored mayo- regular mayo adds creaminess, a flavored mayo or mayo-based dip adds flavor too.  I added a spoonful of leftover Green Goddess dip to the base and it was excellent. 
  • Chipotle lime- a tiny bit of mashed chipotle in adobo and some lime juice 
  • Honey mustard- drizzle of honey, spoonful of whole grain mustard
See?  Master recipe at work!  All of a sudden you have to ability to have a different salad dressing every night of the week-- doesn't that make salad that much more appealing?  All that is necessary is the desire to experiment and play with your food a bit.  The variations that have you add more acid may need a bit more oil to balance the flavor, etc.  Just taste, adjust, taste again, etc.  Before you know it you will be creating (and eating) one-of-a-kind dressings of your own!

I hope you're inspired to try this technique.  Would love to hear more flavor ideas in the comments or on our BRAND NEW FACEBOOK PAGE, which I urge you to "Like" immediately.

As for what to put this fabulous salad dressing ON?  Well, that's a post for another day. :)

Enjoy springtime, folks!


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