Mix up a salad of locally grown fresh greens. Sprinkle in some berries, plus sliced radishes and garden peas. Add a handful of torn fresh herbs, and toss it all in your homemade vinaigrette for just about the freshest raw meal you could possibly make. For a heartier meal, add a little grilled chicken, smoked fish or toasted nuts. A vinaigrette is basically just good oil (1 to 2 parts) mixed with good vinegar (1 part), plus a little seasoning. Here are guidelines for success.
Good oil. Use extra virgin olive oil with a bright, fruity flavor. Often, the darker green the oil is, the better its flavor. Many farmers markets and grocery stores have olive oil tasting stations. Test a few and pick your favorite. If the oil tastes good on plain ole bread, it’ll be great in a vinaigrette dressing.
Good vinegar. As with oils, try a few and pick your favorite. Wine vinegars are classic in vinaigrette dressings, but ciders and balsamics work well, too. Opt for an aged balsamic vinegar if you want a rich, sweet dressing.
Good salt. Sea salt is much more flavorful than table salt, and a coarse grind adds texture to your dressing. Try various flavored or smoked salts for different effects.
Good pepper. Many different kinds of peppercorns are available, but the key to delicious seasoning is freshness. Buy whole peppercorns and use a grinder.
Garlic and herbs. Be generous with seasonally available fresh herbs, and add finely diced garlic according to taste.
Additional seasonings. Play around to find the combo that’s destined to become your signature household recipe. Vinaigrette standbys include mustards, sugar, olives, smashed berries and various cheeses. Simply add a little of something that entices you, taste and adjust. You might also consider substituting bacon grease for the olive oil or citrus juice for the vinegar.
Fresh and Local Spring Recipes
Tabitha Alterman is a Senior Associate Editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. In spring, she digs making fresh butter, yogurt and cheese with yummy, creamy milk from the cows and goats that thrive on the pastures of the nearby Hudson Valley.