Friday, June 22, 2007

Everyone's Favorite Salad Dressing

I am salad dressing-impaired. I don't know why. I have no trouble with things that notoriously give people fits. World-class hollandaise? Pie crust? No problem. But for some reason I can't make a simple vinaigrette that doesn't taste like I just shouldn't have bothered.

In this I am the shame of my family. My father makes outstanding salad dressing. And his father is the acknowledged salad master of our entire extended family. But my grandfather has a secret... an old and treasured copy of "Salads for the Gourmet" circa the Eisenhower administration. What's more, my grandfather is a recipe-follower. We're talking about a man who once scaled a marinade recipe by 7/8 because the leg of lamb he was going to marinate in it was 7/8 the weight called for in the recipe, bless his obsessive-compulsive heart.

So, though I wasn't going to hunt down a copy of my grandfather's salad bible, I figured I could still find some salad dressing recipes (I know, I know... a strange concept) and actually follow them. And now I can eat salad.

This recipe seems to be everyone's particular favorite, since it has been demanded after the first bite each time I've served it. I found it on, from Gourmet, May 2003.

It's creamy and well-balanced. It's actually a good substitute for mayo in things like potato salad and sandwiches (though it does have a looser consistency).

1/4 cup whole milk yogurt (I think lowfat Greek yogurt or regular lowfat yogurt strained to remove excess liquid would also work)
1+ tbsp olive oil
1+ tbsp lemon juice
1+ tbsp minced shallot
1 tbsp finely chopped chives
1 tbsp chopped tarragon (optional)
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp Pommery mustard (This actually might be the secret... if you don't have it, you can substitute regular whole grain mustard, but really, even though you'll pay $20 for a crock of it, you won't regret having some of this in your fridge. You'll find it becomes your secret ingredient in just about everything. Don't forget to lick the spoon.)

I put everything in a jar with a tightly-fitting lid and shake.

The salad recipe it came with includes a lot of herbs, including a goodly amount of fresh flat-leaf parsley and some sorrel. I like parsley in salads, so you may want to try that, though I found that the sorrel got a little overwhelmed (which is sort of strange considering it has such a nice lemony-tart flavor by itself).

In my search for good salad dressing recipes, I also came across these in last month's issue of Food and Wine. The Dijon vinaigrette is especially good, though I haven't tried the other two yet.

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