the importance of being well dressed July 27, 2011

On these warm summer days, there’s been little in the way of complicated cooking because I can’t fathom standing in front of a hot stove. So, when things need to be roasted in the oven or slowly cooked for other recipes, they tend to get done all in one fell swoop – no sense in heating up the kitchen any more than you have to. During the salad days of summer, I firmly believe that it’s as much about the dressing as it is the produce. The last time I purchased bottled salad dressing was the day we came moved into our house and had nothing unpacked in the kitchen – and an empty fridge. Other than that, making a basic vinaigrette takes seconds and doesn’t mask beautiful salad greens the way a (usually way too sweet and viscous) bottled dressing does. I wish more folks felt confident in making their own dressing – it makes all the difference in the world.

While I was cooking ahead on some things and had the oven & stove going at full blast, I decided to try and use some shallots that had been laying around for a vinaigrette – I had peppers roasting anyway so I had room to stir some shallots on the stovetop.  I am a fan of bold, punchy dressing flavors – the right pairing of dressing and salad ingredients is pure magic sometimes. The caramelized shallots were so rich and flavorful & paired with the tang of the mustard and vinegar – it’s a knockout. It was the perfect foil to the salad recipe I had rattling around in my head – peppery arugula, matchsticks of super sharp cheddar cheese and tart Granny Smith apples. Right before we sat down to an easy supper and glass of cold white wine outside, I threw on the toasted walnuts. It all totally works together – and feel free to use this exact ingredient combo – but this recipe is all about the dressing. It would be awesome heartier grilled Romaine chunks or soft Butter lettuce. It could also moonlight as a marinade or sauce for pork or heartier types of fish (or even vegetables like asparagus or zucchini) thrown on the grill.

Caramelized Shallot Vinaigrette – makes about 3/4 cup

  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 4 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. Dijon or other brown mustard
  • 3 tablespoons good quality red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

– Heat butter in a medium skillet until melted but not brown. Add the shallots and allow to saute and caramelize in the pan, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are a medium caramel brown color & soft  – this took about 20 minutes for me. Once they’re brown, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

– In a high powered blender or food processor, combine the shallots, mustard and red wine vinegar and pulse until mushed up and blended. With the appliance whizzing, drizzle in the olive oil to desired consistency. At this point, taste and adjust the vinegar to your liking and season with salt and pepper to taste. If you’d like it thinnner, add in a tablespoon of water at a time until it’s to the consistency you want – remember to taste and adjust the seasoning if you do that. This will last stored in a tightly sealed jar or bottle for 10 days or so.


Chris Jul 27, 2011 02:07 pm

I get the summer oven thing. Baking for a party this weekend was no picnic. Thank goodness for AC! But, enough out that… I will bring the tomato jam if you pass the bottle of this vinaigrette. Deal? :)

DessertForTwo Jul 27, 2011 04:07 pm

I’m such a fan of cheddar cheese + green apple in a salad! Such a great combo. Your shallots would take it over the top-thanks for the idea :)

Ilke Jul 27, 2011 05:07 pm

I wish people felt more confident about making dressing as well!!I normally make my own but I used to buy bottles of different stuff when people came over just in case somebody thinks my olive oil-vinegar dressing is boring. Now I just put mine on the table and say “Sorry we dont have any more dressing, this is it!”. This is similar to what I make but never thought of caramelizing the shallots and pureeing it all. Good one! Thanks Tami. I was just about to study my notes again from your talk in BlogHer :)

SMITH BITES Jul 27, 2011 10:07 pm

haven’t bought dressing in YEARS!! it is soooo easy to make and much, much cheaper . . . btw – i did a dressing today too – LOL! Key Lime Poppy Seed – Yum w/fruit!!

Melissa @ thefauxmartha Jul 27, 2011 11:07 pm

Hello yummy salad! I’m with you on making your own dressing. So much better! Gonna have to give this one a try.

Liz @The Happ Space Jul 28, 2011 01:07 am

Awesome! I usually make a raw shallot vinaigrette dressing for my salad but caramelizing the shallots seem amazing too. I’m definitely going to give this recipe a try! Thanks for sharing!

Miss @ Miss in the Kitchen Jul 28, 2011 09:07 pm

Sounds magical, I love homemade dressings, I’m just not that great at making them.

Amelia from Z Tasty Life Jul 29, 2011 12:07 pm

the butter is a surprise: how interesting!

marla Jul 29, 2011 04:07 pm

I would much rather my salad be well dressed than myself. Yes, great food is very important to me. The butter makes this dressing extra special.

a suburban kitchen Jul 29, 2011 09:07 pm

Love the title of this post.
Hi tami your blog name caught my eye.
I am a commercial food stylist in Chicago.
Late to the blogging world.
Nice to find a fellow stylist.

Jennifer (Savor) Aug 1, 2011 06:08 am

Crazy about salads in the summer and a simple vinaigrette is always the best.

poatoface Aug 8, 2011 02:08 pm

I tried and I loved it!

[…] If the most interesting thing about the salad is the dressing, I’ll either brush the leaves with a bit of the dressing or toss them – once the dressing is on, though…you’re on the clock and there isn’t a magic solution besides shooting quickly – an example of a post on my blog is here. […]