Sunday, June 20, 2010

Super Satisfying Basil Vinaigrette

Summer is definitely the ideal time to bite into a nice crisp, cool, salad.

And on those hot, humid summer days, you may not want the heaviness of a cream-based dressing weighing you down. As a wonderful alternative, this light (and vegan!!) vinaigrette will give you a lot of flavor punch for your dining dollar. This dressing is totally refreshing, and will really dress up a simple salad with distinctive flair. This is especially true if you can snag some fresh basil from the garden to make it...

The original recipe is from Cook's Illustrated magazine, and has been reprinted here. I have made a sort of "quartered" version of the recipe below, since I don't always like to have the same dressing every night, and the original version of this dressing makes a lot; My version makes 2-4 servings, depending on the size of the salad. However, if you do not have a really tiny food processor like I do, you might have to double or quadruple the quantities to use your blender or regular-sized food processor effectively:

1 cups olive oil (or canola or other healthy oil)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (divided into two 1/4 cup amounts)
1/4 of a peeled shallot
1 really tiny clove of garlic peeled (or a quarter of a really large clove)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or other vinegar of your choice; apple cider vinegar should work fine)
1 Tbsp water
1/8 tsp salt
A few grinds of pepper
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard

In a small to medium saucepan, heat a few tablespoons of oil with 1/4 cup of the basil over medium heat. After a few minutes, the basil will turn an inviting bright green, and small bubbles will appear in the oil. At this point, remove your pan from the heat, and allow the mixture to steep for 5 minutes. This will allow the basil to infuse the oil with flavor.

While you wait, process your shallot, garlic, vinegar, water, salt, pepper, and mustard in your food processor (or blender) until the garlic and shallot are finely chopped.

Add your steeped basil oil and process again. Next, add more of your plain olive or canola oil and continue to process until dressing is smooth and emulsified. (You don't have to use all of the remaining oil if you don't want to. You'll just get a more intense flavor if you add less oil). You may or may not be able to keep your food processor or blender running as you do the above step. I had to turn mine off and add a little oil at a time. But it still worked fine for me.

Pack the remaining 1/4 cup of basil into your processor and pulse until dressing is as smooth as you like it.

This dressing will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, depending on how many people intensely love basil in your house (like I do).

Note**: If you have difficulty in digesting raw onions, shallots, or garlic, you can soften the sharp flavors of these items by cooking them briefly before adding them to the recipe. Just chop your shallot (and/or garlic), and put it in a saucepan with a little oil. Cook over low heat until the shallot becomes somewhat translucent. Just a few minutes should be all you need. You may even be able to get away with adding more shallot to your recipe if you cook it in this way before adding in.

Hope you enjoy your ride to flavor country folks. Happy Father's Day!!!

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