My one my favorite little cookbooks is Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, a compendium of useful tips & techniques from one of my cooking heroes, Julia Childs. After all, once you’ve been cooking for a while, you basically know what your favorite flavors are and how they go together; we rely on recipes for inspiration or information on how to cook a new ingredient. But Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom contains all those little tidbits that we tend to forget if we didn’t go to culinary school or if we don’t make a certain food often; how to make perfect hollandaise sauce, the correct temperature for roasting a turkey, how to butterfly a chicken. I refer to this slim volume more than most of my other cookbooks combined.
One of the handy “master” recipes in Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom is her version of a basic vinaigrette. Everyone should have a simple vinaigrette in his or her repertoire; it is a recipe that is both ridiculously simple and quite impressive at the same time. Even though olive oil is not local to us here in the Northeast, I make this vinaigrette as a winter luxury; in summertime, fresh greens can be easily dressed with salsas, tomatoes, fruit… but in winter, this vinaigrette really shines.
I started with Julia’s master recipe and then adjusted to my tastes. I’ve included my own recipe below, but in Options I’ll give Julia’s amounts and you can start with either to find your own, perfect, vinaigrette. Your salad greens, not to mention friends & family, will thank you!
Adapted from Basic Vinaigrette by Julia Childs.
- 1/3 cup good quality olive oil
- 2 – 3 tbsp vinegar (wine, fruit, cider, balsamic, or homemade)
- 1 tbsp freshly squeeze lemon juice
- 2 tbsp red onion, minced
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
- 1 – 2 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- Combine all ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake vigorously. Alternatively, combine in a small bowl and whisk until well blended.
- I like my vinaigrette packed full of stuff; garlic, onion, herbs, etc. Julia starts out with a simpler version, with, as she puts it, the proportions of a very dry martini: 1/3 – 1/2 cup olive oil, and 1/2 tablespoon each of the following: vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and minced shallot or scallion, plus salt & pepper to taste. I find this tastes mostly like olive oil, so I’ve upped the proportion of vinegar, lemon and ‘stuff.’ I also do not like the taste of mustard, so I omit it from my version. Feel free to experiment and make a vinaigrette that suits your tastes.
- Any fresh herb will work in a vinaigrette; use what is on hand, overflowing from the garden, or arrives in the CSA. In winter-time, dried herbs will work as well (use 1 -2 tsp) and will keep longer than fresh herbs.
- The zest of one lemon will add lemony zing to your vinaigrette. For a twist, try substituting lemon juice and/or zest with grapefruit, lime or orange. For a local twist, you could try minced fresh cranberries and reduced cranberry juice.
- Roquefort, blue cheese, or a parmesean-style hard cheese all make nice addtions to a simple vinaigrette. Add about 1/3 cup of cheese to the recipe.
Yields about 2/3 cup, serving 6 to 8.
Vinaigrette will last for about a week in the refrigerator; after that the onions & herbs will start to go off and spoil the taste of the dressing.
Year round, but especially inviting in winter & early spring.