Classic French Sherry Vinaigrette

When Mike and I went on our second date we met up at a local pub which was, several months later, the unfortunate victim of a cataclysmic demise – razed to the ground by a devastating kitchen fire.  Uh, it seems that maybe I’m starting this off on the wrong foot.  A somewhat depressing foot, true, but since that has nothing to do with the story let’s just take it as a passing comment and move on, shall we?  Anyway, we were just entering the smitten-kitten chapter of our dating history, and we enjoyed the unseasonably warm evening out on the pub’s patio, slowly sipping on our pints of micro-brew and nibbling on appetizers as we swapped stories about our respective pasts.  He made me giggle, and I made him blush as we learned more about each other and fell just a little bit more in love.

At some point the conversation turned to the always entertaining topic of Ridiculously Bad Previous Dates.  Luckily, I have lots of fodder for this one.  I mean, everybody has a few bad dates here and there to pepper things up.  But not me, oh no.  My repertoire of RBPD is so far beyond ‘a few bad dates’ that it’s like saying “The Gobi has a bit of sand.”

Mike told me about an ex who, on the eve of their break up, said, ” Hold on a sec (*shuffle, shuffle*)….I have some notes about this that I have to read you first.” Yeaaaah…..I countered that with the story of a counterfeit Italian Gino (he was half Pakistani and half Indian, but used to refer to both Italy and Greece, interchangeably, as ‘the homeland’ until I met his parents and the jig was up).  He seemed to have a split personality until I realized that ‘he’ was actually two different people. More on that another time…..

Mike followed this with a story of the most boring first date ever, where the young lady fired interview questions at him such as “Can you tell me a bit more about your five year plan?  And EXACTLY how much money do you make in your current position?”  When questions 1-13 were answered, the conversational lull over dinner grew from a pause into a vast chasm of silence, broken only by his date thoughtfully chewing on a lettuce leaf, and issuing the deadpan proclamation, “I.  Love.  Salad.  I just love salad.”  And such was the sum of their dinner-time dialogue.  I started to snicker, then I did a double-think and asked him what was so wrong about that?  I ALSO love salad.  I mean, I REALLY, REALLY love salad.  He tried to explain but I couldn’t get past the fundamental issue that salad is there to be revered, and maybe she and I have a lot in common, and maybe IF HE DOESN’T LIKE PEOPLE WHO JUST HAPPEN TO ENJOY THEIR LEAFY GREENS ON A REGULAR BASIS WELL THEN MAYBE I JUST WASN’T THE GIRL FOR HIM.  Poor Mike.  Eight years we have known one another, and he still never knows  what to expect when I walk through the door.

As a salad lover, it goes without saying that we have a side salad, simple or elaborate, with almost every dinner that we share.  The truly embarrassing thing is that without fail, almost every time that we sit down to eat, I immediately dig into the salad and get a glazed eye blissed-out expression on my face, murmuring, “Jeez, I love salad.  I just – I love salad.”  I try to catch myself before I say it, but time and time again it slips out……

Having the depth of passion for salad that I do, obviously salad dressing is a fundamental precursor to my affections.  I make my own dressing most of the time unless I’m absolutely harried and can’t be bothered, but in times of emergency I’m still safe with a fridge door that’s half full of gently used store bought dressings.  I love complex dressings with surprising flavour combinations, soft and nutty dressings that let the flavours of the lettuce come through, mouth-puckeringly acidic dressings that awaken the taste buds and then punish them for showing up, and so on and so forth.  There is room in my twisted little heart for all the dressings on God’s green earth and I generally don’t discriminate.  However, I can’t help playing favourites and this is probably the dressing that I make the most – a classic French vinaigrette that I have been utterly addicted to ever since I was a ravenous 16 year old working at a charming French Relais du Silence in Haliburton, Ontario.  It was there that I learned how good, simple ingredients that are well combined and well seasoned can produce exceptional and classic results.  I also learned that it’s nice to have your entree shine, and sometimes a simple salad of well dressed lettuce can be a more satisfying side than a fussy bowl of 17 different vegetables, nuts and fruits.

Classic French Sherry Vinaigrette

This will yield about 1 cup, which you can keep in a sealed container in the fridge for at least a week or two as long as you let it return to room temperature and give it a good shake before you use it.

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup good quality Sherry vinegar
  • 2/3 cup fruity, full bodied extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp kosher salt, to taste
In a medium size bowl, grate 1 clove of garlic into the tablespoon of Dijon mustard.
Add the sherry vinegar and salt.  Give it a good whisk.
Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly as you go.
When you’re done, give it another quick whisk – just to be on the safe side! This vinaigrette is so blessed simple and fast, but so full of fine French flavour.  

There is a time and a place for the Citrus Vanilla Dressing with Pernod‘s of the world, but sometimes you just want quick, comforting, and utterly delicious.

Your well dressed salad goes well with a glass of wine and the sweet sounds of La Vie En Rose by Sophie Milman, who does it almost as well as Edith herself.