A vinaigrette is essentially a mixture of oil and vinegar, and the base of many salad dressings and, as I recently discovered, having “illegitimately” (or instinctively) used it as such, is also used as a marinade.
That said, it’s a fantastic base for salad dressings, including a French dressing which my mother taught me to make, at the ripe old age of eight or nine. The receptacle in which I was taught to make it was completely un-traditional: it was the wooden spoon and bowl of a salad set that had been a wedding present to her and Dad in 1961. I have no idea what happened to that set; I was quite sad when I discovered that Mum had stopped using it and had discarded it. Effectively, the salad was dressed in situ: a sprinkling of salt, pepper and sugar; this was followed by using the serving spoon, and almost filling this with sunflower oil (no olive oil in those days) and a little vinegar, which were mixed together and drizzled over the salad. The latter, incidentally, consisted largely of lettuce leaves and little else.
As we grew up, the dressing became a little more “complicated” and has become the basis of any salad dressing that I make (when we don’t rely on the ubiquitous olive oil and balsamic vinegar which is our “standard”). The basic version, which I make in relatively large quantities because it keeps well (in the fridge), consists of the following:
- 2 parts olive oil
- 1 part vinegar – not white spirit – I use white wine, apple cider or tarragon vinegar (this last is the traditional vinegar used for French dressing and Dijon mustard), and sometimes even red wine vinegar
- salt, pepper and sugar to taste
- 1 part whole grain mustard
- 1 clove garlic, peeled (optional)
All this is mixed together (usually in a jam jar) and stored in the fridge for use as and when ….
“When” has happened relatively frequently of late because we’ve had a surfeit of garden produce; specifically, peas, broad beans, broccoli (going to seed) and beetroot. Some of the vegetables have been eaten hot, but because we’ve had some gloriously warm, sunny weather, they have, more often than not, been incorporated into salads.
As you know, even after years of growing my own, I still get a helluva kick out of producing meals with homegrown produce. None more so when an entire dish is homegrown.
It’s easy to make a mixed salad, but sometimes in a mixed salad, one loses the flavours of some of the ingredients. Sometimes, too, the available ingredients don’t work so well together. So, I make a salad platter. I suppose that some would call it a deconstructed salad, keeping the flavours separate and so that people can choose what to combine with what (or not).
In the salad, above, beetroot was resting on rocket which, as I’ve mentioned before, work well together, and the broccoli on young beetroot leaves. Over the entire platter, I drizzled my standard French dressing including on the fresh peas, that had been brought to the boil with a mint sprig and then blanched, and broad beans. These last had been lightly boiled, also blanched but popped out of their skins before they were spread like shiny green jewels on the plate.
So why have I been wittering on about this dressing being a good base? Well, the other evening I decided, based on the fact that a mixed salad can be somewhat underwhelming for the ingredients, and what we had in the garden, I produced a Four Salad Platter.
On the face of it, this platter seems very similar to the other. Yes, it was dressed with my basic French dressing, but each individual salad included different fresh herbs that introduced the flavours that ensured that the platter consisted of four, individual salads. The broad beans were liberally sprinkled with chopped, garden fresh mint and the nasturtiums are a natural complement to the broccoli. In addition to the usual ingredients in a French salad, I included (also from the garden) Pepino melon, pineapple sage, chopped chives and beautiful blue Borage flowers.
So, on the French dressing base, the fresh herbs provide the nuanced flavours that make the salad platter, according to The Husband, fantastic!
© Fiona’s Favourites 2015