Balsamic Maple Dressing

The Green, Green Month of June

The green month of June is all about salad in my book.  I have been harvesting a little from my own garden, and a lot from my CSA.  It’s salad for dinner almost every night—sometimes with a grilled steak on top, sometimes stuffed in a pita with falafel or hummus, sometimes served on the side.  

Last night salad greens made a bed for a simple, hot-weather tuna–white bean salad (1 can of tuna, two cans of cannellini beans, 1 can of artichoke hearts—all well drained—plus finely chopped garlic scapes—could have been scallions or onions—steamed asparagus—could have been green beans—and sliced Harukei turnips—could have been radishes or carrots).  I dressed the salad mixture with a good olive oil plus red wine vinegar, sea salt, and pepper.  A fine, easy meal for a hot night.  Bread and wine and a porch for catching the slight breeze made it a fine dinner.    

Tonight I’m bringing a salad to dinner at a friend’s house.  Because the greens are so lovely, so fresh, and so flavorful, I don’t want a lot of other ingredients to detract from them.  So all I will add are some sugar snap peas  (the season will end quickly, so they are added to almost everything while they last), a handful of chive blossoms, and a couple of leaves of fresh oregano and mint.

If I were dressing this at home, I might just drizzle in some extra virgin olive oil, splash in some sherry vinegar, and sprinkle with Maldon sea salt – that’s what I usually do.  But for tonight, I’ll shake up a dressing in a canning jar because it is easier to transport that way.  Then, I’ll dress it at the last minute before we eat.  

Salad greens this fresh should be dressed with a light, light hand.  

Ripton House Dressing
Makes about 1/3 cup

Balsamic vinegar with maple syrup has an almost smoky aftertaste.  The maple syrup acts as an emulsifier and holds the dressing together.
1 large garlic clove, minced1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar1 ½ teaspoons pure maple syrup3/4 teaspoons soy sauce4 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in a half-pint canning jar and shake until well blended.

Or, you could go with a classic vinaigrette.

Classic Vinaigrette
Makes about 1/4 cup

A classic vinaigrette is made of oil and vinegar, bound together with a touch of mustard and flavored with a little garlic, shallot, or herbs.  The best quality extra virgin olive oil and the best-quality vinegar will make all the difference.  Which vinegar to use – red wine, white wine, sherry, herbal, raspberry, balsamic – depends on the salad you are dressing.  All work equally well with a salad of mixed greens.  This recipe is easily multiplied when a large quantity it desired, but for best flavor, make it up fresh each time you need it.  

1 tablespoon balsamic, herbal, raspberry red wine, sherry, or white wine vinegar

1 small garlic clove, minced, or 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs or shallot

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oi

lSalt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the vinegar, garlic, and mustard in a small bowl.  Whisk until smooth.  Slowly pour in the oil.  Whisk constantly until the oil is fully incorporated.  Season with salt and pepper.  Use immediately.

Adapted from Serving Up the Harvest.  ©2009 Andrea Chesman.  All rights reserved.

My First CSA Pick-Up

My first CSA pick-up today – a whole new level of food fun – and it beats shopping any day. 

I decided to join a CSA because I write about food, and I wanted to experience what it is like to come home with a big box of vegetables, not necessarily of my choosing.

Of course, what I picked up was put in my own canvas bags—no boxes.  And, I had a fair amount of choice among the offerings.  Still, since my usual meal planning begins with knowing what is ready to harvest from my own garden or making a list for buying at a store, the CSA share turns my head around.  I have to start with the veggies, then figure out the meals.  

Turns out, the vegetables immediately told me what I’d be cooking this week.

CSA still life
I knew that salad greens were pretty much inevitable this time of year, so I planned ahead and bought a steak to grill.  Sure enough, each share included a hefty helping of a beautiful mesclun mix. I dumped half of my bag in a big bowl.  Dinner was begun. 

I sliced half of a bunch of beautiful, white Harukei turnips into the salad as well.  (The remaining half was put away, with the greens bagged separately.  No question I will cook the greens; they are simply delicious.) Surprise!  There were zucchini in this week’s share, so those tasty morsels were quartered lengthwise, slicked with olive oil, and grilled after the steak, while the meat was resting.  Dinner was a lightly dressed salad topped with steak and grilled zucchini.  Perfect.

Tomorrow, I’ll be stir-frying those emerald Asian greens, along with the turnip greens – that’s a no brainer.  They are crying out for a swift swish through the wok, with garlic, chili paste, and soy.  The Boston lettuce I picked up (there was a choice of five items, including three different lettuces, the Asian greens, napa cabbage, and the turnips) will definitely be used as a wrap.  I am thinking I will stir-fry ground pork and finely chopped napa cabbage seasoned with Asian fish sauce, cilantro, garlic, and chiles.  The mixture will be wrapped in Boston lettuce and served with some Thai dipping sauces.  The dried black beans (another pleasant surprise) will be turned into a chili and served with salad.  There’s probably enough greens for salad throughout the week. 

This is going to be fun.  Here’s my house salad dressing; it’s a simple, balanced vinaigrette that doesn’t draw attention to itself. I figure I am going to be making this often.

Balsamic Maple Vinaigrette
Makes about ½ cup
1 garlic clove or small shallot, minced1 tablespoon high-quality balsamic vinegar1 teaspoon pure maple syrup½ teaspoon soy sauce3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Combine all the ingredients in a half-pint canning jar.  Cover and shake to blend.  
©2012 Andrea Chesman