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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Recipe: "Fresh Herb Vinaigrette"

I made this salad dressing for a fresh salad recently.  Vinegar-and-oil salad dressings are easy to make; you can usually throw one together from standard pantry supplies (some kind of vegetable oil, some kind of vinegar, plus seasonings).  This is useful if you garden, friends give you garden goodies, and/or you shop at farmer's markets.  We wound up with salad fixings and no dressing in the fridge, so I invented something.

Fresh Herb Vinaigrette

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon Australian pink salt
1/4 teaspoon rose baises peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon garlic paste
4 basil leaves
4 sprigs flat Italian parsley
4 sprigs thyme
1 sprig sweet marjoram
1 sprig lemon balm


 In a small mixing bowl, combine 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.  Whisk in 1 tablespoon honey until thoroughly blended.

 In a mortar and pestle, grind together 1/4 teaspoon Australian pink salt, 1/4 teaspoon rose baises peppercorns, and 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns.  Add to the mixing bowl and whisk ingredients again.  Add 1/8 teaspoon garlic paste and whisk to combine.

 Use another small bowl for the fresh herbs.  Cut the basil leaves in half lengthwise, then stack them together.  Snip into flakes over the bowl.  Wad up the Italian flat parsley and use kitchen scissors to snip into flakes over the bowl.  Strip the tiny leaves of thyme off the stems and add them whole.  Strip the leaves off the sweet marjoram stem.  Wad up the leaves and snip them into the bowl.  Strip the leaves off the sweet marjoram stem and the lemon balm stem.  Wad up the leaves and snip them into the bowl.  Toss gently to mix the herbs together.  Add all the herbs to the oil-and-vinegar base in the other bowl, then whisk again.

 Pour off the vinaigrette into a bottle.  Shake before serving.  This makes a tasty sauce or marinade for robust meats such as beef, as well as its original purpose as a salad dressing.


The standard formula for vinegar-and-oil salad dressing uses 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar.  You can see that this recipe uses a bit more vinegar.  That's because the honey makes it sweeter and stickier, so it needs extra vinegar for balance.

Use a fancy, full-flavor olive oil for this recipe if you have it.  The lighter versions are too bland and the low-grade ones are too harsh.

Apple cider vinegar has a sweet, fruity flavor.  Balsamic vinegar is darker, with a complex bittersharp flavor.  If you don't have balsamic vinegar you can use all apple cider vinegar.  Red wine vinegar should also work well in this recipe.

Honey is an emulsifier.  It makes the oil and vinegar mix together much better than usual, and stay mixed for a while rather than separating almost instantly.  The result is a dark, thin sauce that sticks pretty well to salad leaves.

Australian pink salt is a fancy salt with a light, complex mineral flavor.  It works well with sweet or fruity dishes.  You can substitute sea salt or plain table salt.

Fresh-crushed pepper has more flavor than ground pepper, but either will work.  The rose baises peppercorns are pink or red and have a fruity, spicy flavor.  If you don't have any, use all black.  Any kind of black peppercorn is fine.

Garlic paste is an easy way to keep garlic available all the time.  If you have fresh garlic, use one small clove, minced.

Fresh herbs are ideal for salad dressing that will be used immediately.  If you're going to store it in the refrigerator for a while, dried herbs will probably work better.  You can tinker around with different herbs depending on what you have, what you like, and what you're using in other recipes.

I originally served this over a salad made with assorted baby lettuces, baby spinach, and a bit of French sorrel; plus carrots, radishes, and green onions.

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