Isabel’s Salad Dressing

I have kept this vinaigrette salad dressing recipe that I created a long time ago as a secret. My friends try to guess the ingredients and beg me for the recipe. I once gave it to my friend Michelle for her fiftieth birthday, handwritten on an elegant card with azure blue ink from my fountain pen and presented in an envelope lined with gold paper. She was beyond thrilled and said this was a thoughtful and priceless gift.

Once you taste this not-so-secret-anymore recipe because I’m giving it to you,  the salad dressing you buy at the grocery store will pale in comparison. I buy high-quality vinegars and oils instead of buying store bought dressing. It takes just a few minutes to whip this up and the extraordinary sensory pleasure you’ll get from eating this makes the time spent worthwhile.

½ cup vinegar (l like aged-sherry, champagne, white, and red balsamic)
1 tablespoon sugar (I use raw cane or demerara)
1 tablespoon mustard (favorites are stone ground, Dijon and spicy brown)
Pinch of salt (any kind but iodized. It tastes terrible!)
1 shallot (if you don’t have one, use about two tablespoons diced any kind of onion)
1 clove garlic
1 ½ cups oil (my favorites are olive, walnut, rice bran)

Puree the first six ingredients in a blender. Then slowly add the 1½ cups of oil and blend some more. Pour into a glass bottle. This salad dressing will keep for up to two months in the fridge.

Lately my favorite version of this is made with aged sherry vinegar and half olive/half walnut oil and stone ground mustard. In the past I’ve used blood orange champagne vinegar. White wine vinegars are better with neutral oils, like rice bran oil or grapeseed.  Dark vinegars are better with olive oil. What’s nice about this recipe is you can mix and match the ingredients to suit your tastes. I call these kinds of recipes “un-recipes’.

My favorite oil to use in this recipe is rice bran oil which you probably haven’t seen since it’s not commonly available in most grocery stores; the exception to this is Asian markets. Most restaurant supply wholesalers do sell it because its high smoke point makes it ideal for frying. It’s quite versatile and is excellent for baking. This oil behaves differently than other light oils; it’s difficult to explain.

Now you have a little gift from me to you – Isabel’s salad dressing. Look at what you have on hand and whip up a batch! Maybe you can keep it a secret and give it to a friend someday.