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
– 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.