Saturday, April 11, 2009

Recipe: My classic French-inspired vinaigrette

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I have to tell you, there's not a whole a lot of exciting cooking going on in my kitchen right now. We still have lots of Passover leftovers, of which we are quickly becoming tired. The chicken is almost gone. The brisket is destined for a beef-barley soup, I think. I might make breakfast buns filled with the last of the haroset, if I can get past my guilt (we don't keep Passover for more than a day or two, but still, to decide actively to make something luscious and leavened - it might be too much for me).

I started my new job at this week, and while I'm really enjoying it, I had very little time to cook other than what I had to do for the seders. And even less time to write about cooking. So here it is, the weekend, lots of time for both cooking and blogging, and I realized that nothing I made for dinner was worth photographing. A glitch in my planning.

And then I saw my ever-present jar of vinaigrette and realized I hadn't shared this simple joy with you yet. Everyone has his or her own way with salad dressing, and mine has carried me through many dishes: green salads, of course, but I also use this dressing on cooked vegetables (dress them when warm so they absorb the flavor better), to marinate chicken, and even sometimes on its own as a dip.

Every French head of household makes a dressing quite similar to this. Mix it up in an old jar, keep it in the refrigerator, and you'll never go back to the bottled stuff. All these measurements are approximate; it's really about the proportions. I like about one part acid to three parts oil, but use your own palate as a guide.

Classic French-inspired vinaigrette
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • juice of 3 lemons
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp light-colored vinegar (I prefer champagne, but white wine vinegar is fine too)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups good olive oil
Put all ingredients in a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid. Close the jar and shake well. Taste and adjust; does it need more salt? more acid? a little more oil? You can't ruin it, so don't be afraid to play with the proportions.

This dressing will keep for at least a month in the refrigerator. Let it warm up before you use it, as the oil will congeal when it's cold.


Anonymous said...

Very similar to what I make, but I usually add a small squeeze of honey or a heavy pinch of sugar to balance out a little of the tartness. I must shamefacedly admit that we eat salad fairly infrequently, so I usually only mix up a wee batch at a time. Maybe when we are growing our own lettuces (which will be Very Soon, I hope) I will graduate to the jar o' dressing! :)

Erika Kerekes said...

I was thinking I probably should have mentioned that this is quite a robust dressing. I personally don't like it sweetened, but I do know a lot of people do that. My mother-in-law actually sprinkles sugar or Splenda on her salad, which I had never seen before. Ah well - anything to get people to eat the greens, I guess.

I wish we ate salad more too. I try to get into the habit, but it comes and goes. Here in southern California I should have been growing my lettuce all winter, but I was sick right at the time I should have gotten the plants in the ground, so I missed my chance. Next year.

Kim - Easy French Food said...

Great to know how long this keeps. I usually make my vinaigrette recipes in small quantities, but I can definitely see the interest in whipping up a good sized batch.

Erika Kerekes said...

Actually, Kim, I was being conservative - I often keep mine for several months and they're better at the end than at the beginning....

Sarah said...

I am definitely going to try this as I am always looking for new recipes for dressing. I am curious about lemon and vinegar in the same recipe, I would have thought one or the other. Do you have good recommendations for champagne vinegars? I never buy it, I'm a balsamic and red wine kind of gal.

Erika Kerekes said...

Sarah - I really like the tartness, so I use both lemon and vinegar. But it's up to you - if you prefer it milder, go with one or the other. As for champagne vinegars, I buy whatever they have at the grocery store. I'm sure that it would be even better with a better vinegar, but actually, in this dressing, I'm not sure you'd taste the difference, because the mustard is really the predominant flavor.

Funny, I used to use balsamic all the time and then got tired of it about 5 years ago.

Sarah said...

Well now I've got a jar of this in my fridge that looks exactly like the above photo! My family is loving this dressing as an alternative the the heavier balsamic vinaigrettes that I usually make. I find that while this is as you say, "robust", it goes very well with summer salads, totally delicious on avocados and arugula!

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