Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette

This is the go-to salad dressing in our house.  All winter we made kale salad with this dressing, and now that it's lettuce season again, we're using it to dress that.  Just toss some with whatever greens or veggies you have on hand, maybe some dried fruit and nuts, and away you go.

Lettuce mix in the lower field .
The most interesting ingredient here is the mustard, which I want to say is absolutely essential.  I spent years making vinaigrettes that had to be stirred vigorously with a fork before being poured over the salad, and then the oil and vinegar would immediately separate again.  Mustard is the thing that prevents this from happening.  My little sister, who went to cooking school, where they teach you these things, described it to me this way: "Mustard is an emulsifier.  It has molecules that reach out and grab onto an oil molecule with one hand and a vinegar molecule with the other, so they don't separate.  Raw eggs do this too, but raw eggs make people uncomfortable."  So we use mustard.  Even if you don't love mustard, I would encourage you to try it in this; I don't find that it affects the flavor much, and it makes all the difference to have a dressing that can evenly coat your salad.

I also want to emphasize for any science teachers reading this that both my sister and I are fully aware that molecules don't actually have hands.

[n.b.: I'm not much of a measurer when it comes to things like this, so the measurements below are very approximate.  Feel free to adjust the amounts to get the consistency and flavor you want.  Also, this dressing can be made with any vinegar you choose -- don't feel confined to balsamic.  Experiment!]

makes not quite 1 cup dressing

1/2 cup good olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons smooth dijon mustard
1-2 teaspoons honey, to taste
generous pinch coarse salt
generous pinch freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and whisk vigorously until smooth.  Alternatively, place all ingredients in a half-pint or pint jar with a lid, and shake furiously until smoothly combined.  Toss necessary amount with salad and serve.

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