Thursday, November 4, 2010

Simple Honey Vinaigrette

 Looking for an easy way to dress up salad? I know I always am. I get bored having the same salad dressing night after night, as well as having to check expiration dates on bottles in my fridge. Sometimes I get home, hoping to have a salad, only to discover there's no ready made dressing available. And that's where today's recipe comes in handy!

Salad dressing can be incredibly easy to make. The most basic salad dressing has only two ingredients--vinegar and oil. The perfect dressing will have the right balance between sweet and tangy. There will always be an oil or fat and a vinegar element; emulsifiers, such as egg yolk or mustard, help the vinegar and oil stay blended.

This simple vinaigrette starts with minced shallot. You could use onion too, but shallot has a milder flavor. If you like garlic, you could mince some garlic up too.

Next are some big spoonfuls of dijon mustard. I love dijon mustard in salad dressing.

Now for the sweet part of the recipe--honey. Honey is a nice ingredient to use; unlike sugar, there's no worry about undissolved crystals or lumps, and there are so many varieties of honey out there that you can pick and choose to suit your tastes.

This vinaigrette is going to have a couple of acids. The first is lemon juice. But before you squeeze the lemon, take time to zest off some of the peel (avoiding the white pithy part of the lemon.)

A good trick when zesting is to lay the lemon (or whatever you're zesting) flat. Then run the microplane or grater over it--rather than the other way around. This way, the zest gets caught in the high sides of the zester, and there's less risk of you slipping and zesting your hand. And you can use a lighter touch this way, avoiding the risk of zesting up the bitter pith.

Add the zest of half the lemon to your vinaigrette. Then add half of the juice from the lemon.

Give everything a nice whisk. Now it's time for the second acid--white wine vinegar.

You could use any light-colored vinegar in your pantry--white balsamic, apple cider, red wine--whatever you like.

Now stream in the olive oil. You don't want to add it all at once, or it may never incorporate fully. Stir while you stream in the oil, or add a little bit at a time and then stir.

I like to add fresh chopped parsley as well--just for some extra color.

Oh, and don't forget to salt and pepper!

I marinated some chicken in the vinaigrette mixture and then served it over a salad with the same vinaigrette. I really enjoyed it--it hit all the right notes of sweet, sour, and tangy, and it gave a really nice flavor to the chicken as well. Try it on your next salad!

Recipe: Simple Honey Vinaigrette
1/2 shallot, finely minced
3 tbsp. dijon mustard
1/4 c. honey
Zest and juice from half a lemon
1/3 c. white wine vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tbsp. chopped parsley

Whisk all ingredients together, and then serve!

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