After five days away, we were glad to get home and I was happy to be in my kitchen again. We ate fabulously while we were gone (we were on the coast after all), but I get such pleasure from cooking that I spent three hours this afternoon working on tonight's dinner. A few weeks ago, a friend of my mother emailed a recipe for Blackberry Vinaigrette. Paula was aware of my new salad dressing fixation and the recipe she sent was the signature dressing at a golf course in Tennessee for which she was once a chef. The recipe intrigued me greatly but was low on the instant gratification scale. The first step was to make blackberry vinegar, a process that takes at least a week. I am not a patient person.
I had several aborted attempts to begin the vinegar, but finally began steeping it nearly two weeks ago. By the time it should have been ready though, we were leaving town and I was sick to boot. So I left the beautifully tinted vinegar in the refrigerator and headed East, thinking of the vinegar no less than twice a day while I was gone. This morning, nearly giddy with anticipation, I went to the store to get the rest of the ingredients.
- 1 cup blackberries, fresh or frozen (I used frozen - the only fresh ones I could find looked downright nasty at the supermarket)
- 1 pint cider vinegar
- 1/2 Tbs minced shallots
- 3/4 Tbs Dijon mustard (this was a hard one - I have neither a 3/4 Tbs nor a 1/4 Tbs measuring spoon - did a little bit of guesstimating here)
- 1/4 cup blackberries from vinegar, pureed and pressed through a sieve (easier said than done - plan for some extra time here)
- 1 1/2 cups olive oil (I used only 1 cup - I like to lean towards the vinegary side)
- 1/2 cup honey
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp minced garlic
- Add blackberries to cider vinegar and let stand in the refrigerator for at least one week. Remember that a watched pot never boils.
- Strain out 1/2 cup of the blackberry vinegar and whisk it together with the shallots and the rest of the ingredients.
This was BY FAR the best of the dressings I've had the pleasure of making. I served it over a mix of baby greens, thinly sliced red onion, and crumbled feta cheese. It had a terrific, layered mix of tastes, yet none of them were overbearing. The berries added just the touch of tartness, balanced perfectly by the sweetness of the honey and the acidity of the vinegar. The Carnivore was a big fan as well. I'm wondering now how weel this would do in some of my cold bean or pasta salads. Will have to think on this. In the meantime, I will be eating salad daily for the next few days while I savor the beauty of this vinaigrette.
On a side note, I also made Lenny Robinson's Favorite Lasagna tonight, but this time I used the leftover San Marzano tomato sauce that I had frozen a few weeks ago. Eureka! For now at least, I think I have found the best use for that sauce. It added a delicate tartness to the lasagna that went well with the rich custardy ricotta filling. Still, while the tomato sauce married perfectly with the lasagna, I've yet to be convinced that the expense of those particular tomatoes is worth the mediocrity of the finished sauce. We ate at an Italian place in the la-di-da section of Richmond this weekend where they served an incredible red sauce that bowled me and The Carnivore slap over. My sister practically drank the stuff. She and her husband live across the street from the place, and they eat there often. I'm hoping to convince them to ask the chef for the recipe.
When we returned to town yesterday, waiting for us was a package from my West Coast friend Tisha. She had sent dried fish flakes, wasabi paste and wasabi powder, and I can finally make the dip recipe that I have been staring apoplectically at for the past few months while I cursed the lack of specialty markets in the small-town South. I am beside myself.
It is nice to see that patience does have a place in my world, and that seemingly everything really IS better when you have had to wait for it. Not that I want to make a habit of it or anything...