Don’t you ever get tired of talking about food? Luckily for us, the answer is a resounding no. In fact, we like to talk about dinner when we’re eating breakfast and think about breakfast while we’re having dinner. We like cooking while talking about mind-blowing meals we’ve had, and we usually flip through food magazines while we grab lunch. When it comes to cooking ideas, tips, and techniques, we’re always happy to help. A quick, un-scientific poll of the Farmhouse reveals that one of the questions that comes up with marked frequency is, “Why are your salads always so good?”
We wish the answer was more complicated so we could seem all chef-y and knowledgeable, but the answer is really pretty simple. We haven’t bought bottled salad dressing in over twenty years. True of most things, but really, really the case when it comes to making salad: ingredients are everything. And therein lies the method to the magic. Our basic vinaigrette can be reduced down to two ingredients and still be amazing: start with really good olive oil plus lemon juice or high-quality vinegar. Add clean-flavored salt and freshly ground pepper. Whisk or shake. We realize this isn’t making us sound like food experts, but we’re hoping you appreciate our honesty.
Once you’ve made our Basic Vinaigrette, the fun really begins. Toss roasted sweet potatoes and capers in an herbed version. Drizzle a lemony balsamic version over roasted peeled peppers, grilled chicken and shaved piquant cheese. Bring back the 80’s classic pasta salad with olives, shaved summer squash, and a red wine vinegar version. You get the idea… come over for pancakes and we’ll talk about it.
1/4 c lemon juice or vinegar, or a combination
1 T whole grain mustard (optional)
1 T minced shallot (optional)
3/4 c oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Place lemon juice and/or vinegar in a medium bowl or jar and add shallots and mustard if using. Whisk or shake to combine. For bowl method, add oil in a thin stream and whisk constantly until emulsified. If using a jar, add oil all at once, screw lid on tightly and shake until dressing is emulsified. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
The variations on this basic method are limited only by your imagination: use garlic instead of shallots; vary the type of mustard or swap it out for olive tapenade, pesto, red pepper paste, Thai curry paste, etc; use other citrus juices; add minced herbs; use a variety of oils including olive, toasted sesame, walnut, or pumpkin seed. Basically, you want to match the flavor profile of your vinaigrette to the ingredients in your salad, so spend a little time thinking of what might work well together.