|Imelda's artisan vinaigrettes|
Some people just know how to give good gifts. Age-appropriate, personal, delicious gifts that others can enjoy. Imelda Alejandrino—Steve's business collegue at AP42—is one of those people.
Yesterday afternoon, Steve walked in with a birthday gift bag containing three bottles of sumptuous, homemade, artisan vinaigrettes—Sesame Vinaigrette, Strawberry Vinaigrette, and Meyer Lemon. Each bottle was labeled with a handwritten tag, and each tag contained food pairing suggestions. Yes, yes, yes! I can just picture a bed of garden fresh arugula with pine nuts, shaved parmesan, and meyer lemon vinaigrette drizzled on top.
A gift like this is even better when it comes with a little provenance. As it so happened, Steve and I ran into Imelda and her husband, Paul, last weekend as they were walking away from The Container Store in downtown Walnut Creek. Imelda had just purchased the sleek, swing-top, hermetic-seal bottles that she would be using for her vinaigrettes.
The Birthday Dinner
While the cedar-wrapped salmon rolls from Whole Foods were baking, I tossed a simple salad of fresh spring greens, cut-up strawberries, avocado, and walnuts in Imelda's strawberry vinaigrette and seasoned it with cracked black pepper and haleakala red finishing salt. When the salmon rolls were done, I served them with the tossed green salad and a serving of classic potato salad from Diablo Foods in Lafayette. The no-fuss combo of salads and salmon is one of my standard easy springtime dinners.
"WHAT ABOUT THE CAKE?" you ask. We split a gigantic slice of chocolate avalanche cake from Whole Foods, with a little Ben & Jerry's Phish Food Froyo on the side (chocolate frozen yogurt with marshmallow cream, caramel, and tiny chocolate fish). Yes, it was good.
Fresh vinaigrette takes 10 minutes to whisk together and is so much better than anything that you can buy in the grocery store. Here's one of my favorites!
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BASIC SAUCE VINAIGRETTE — Makes about 1/2 c.
Adapted from Bon Appétit, Basic Skills for the Good Cook, ©1981
•1 small medium-sized garlic clove, peeled, smashed & minced
•1 tsp. course salt
•1/2 tsp. ground pepper (white preferred, but black peppercorns work just fine)
•1/2 tsp. dry mustard
•1 tsp. Dijon mustard (classic Parisian-style)
•1 egg, beaten OR 2 T. cream
•2 T. olive oil
•2 T. tarragon vinegar or wine vinegar (either white or red wine vinegar will work; I have also used raspberry vinegar in this)
•1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
•1/4 c. vegetable oil (peanut, corn, avocado, safflower, grapeseed, etc.)
HOW TO MAKE IT
Smash the minced garlic & course salt together in a small glass or metal mixing bowl until they almost form a paste. Add ground pepper, dry mustard, Dijon mustard, beaten egg OR cream, & olive oil; whisk together to combine.
Add vinegar & lemon juice and whisk together until combined. Slowly add the vegatable oil until completely absorbed.
Throw everything except the vegetable oil into a mini-food processor & whip for a few seconds to combine. Add the vegetable oil in batches and pulse to thoroughly emulsify. Pour into a glass container and refrigerate for up to one week. It will thicken into a creamier consistency after it is refrigerated.