Friday, June 3, 2011

Basics: Maple vinaigrette

So the other night we had salad for dinner. I'm not usually a big salad-and-salad-only fan, but our mini-heatwave twisted my arm into not cooking anything for dinner. Instead, we had a nice little salade Ni├žoise (sans anchovies, though one of these days I'll have to try the really traditional recipe and see how it is).

This type of salad is really easy to put together; it's a composed salad with large chunks of a variety of veggies. You can adjust what you put in it based on your tastes, but I often include:

  • boiled potatoes
  • steamed green beans
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • fresh tomato
  • bell peppers
  • avocado
  • canned tuna or salmon
  • olives
  • some greens like lettuce or spring mix
It doesn't have to be huge chunks, of course, but I prefer fairly large (ie: 1 inch square) pieces as it makes it a nicer looking salad... as my dad would have said, it looks 'rustic' ;) It also makes it easier to eat. 
This one does require some advance prep as it is best with the cooked veg chilled first, but you can also cook it and plunk it in an ice water bath for a few minutes if you're in a hurry. Compose everything nicely on a bed of greens and serve with a nice dressing, some french bread and a bit of wine and pretend you're in the south of France!

Now for the good part, the dressing. Normally I'd make a simple balsamic vinaigrette to go with a salad like this, but this time I wanted to try something different. I've been meaning to try my hand at a maple vinaigrette for a while (B's mom makes an excellent one), so figured no time like the present. Here's what I did:

Maple Vinaigrette
2/3 cup oil
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp finely grated orange rind (optional)

Put all the ingredients into a mason jar, seal the lid tightly and shake the bejeezus out of it. That's it. This one blends together really nicely, giving a caramel-colored dressing that smells divine. The orange is wonderfully fragrant and the maple gives a lovely sweetness.

If you're not a fan of sweet dressings, then this is not the one for you. It went fairly well with the salad, though the combination of sweet and canned fish was a bit odd, so I don't think I'd repeat this particular pairing. I can see this dressing going beautifully on a fruit salad or a chicken salad, or just a plain ol' green salad.

*Tip: If you're working with a recipe that calls for oil as well as a sticky liquid ingredient such as maple syrup or honey, measure out your oil first then using the same measuring cup, measure out your sweetener. By using the oil first to grease the sides of the measuring cup, your sweetener will slide right out with no trouble (or spatulas) needed!

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