I would argue that you can have all the makings for a stellar salad, worthy of a James Beard award or something equally lofty, but if you dress it with some mediocre dressing you threw together at the last minute, the salad will quickly become forgettable at best, and jarring at worst. Case in point: I recently had a lentil salad at a restaurant that could have been amazing, but missed the mark due to a tart lemon dressing that overwhelmed the flavors of the salad. It needed the rounded depth of sherry vinegar instead of lemon, and it made all the difference.
A good vinaigrette takes minutes to make, can almost always be made ahead, and keeps well in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Really, there’s no excuse for not having a couple on hand. So take a few minutes to whip this one up and throw it into the refrigerator. It’s perfect for a winter salad of bitter greens like kale, endive, chicory, spinach, mustard greens, frisee, radicchio, or escarole. Likewise it’s wonderful on Bibb or butter lettuce.
Feel free to add some fruit – sliced pears, pomegranate seeds, persimmon chunks, and avocado work great with this vinaigrette, and toss it all together just before serving. You might just skip the rest of the meal.
P.S. For the record, I wouldn’t use it in a lentil salad. Ever.
- 1 ripe pear, peeled and cored, coarsely chopped
- 5 tablespoons pear vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Throw everything EXCEPT the olive oil into a blender, or the bowl of the food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the olive oil and buzz it a few times to completely emulsify.
Feel free to adjust for the oil - vinegar balance you prefer by dipping a salad leaf into the dressing to taste it. Don't judge it by only tasting the dressing. It's always best to try it with whatever it will be served on.
If you don't have pear vinegar, you can substitute apple cider vinegar. The pear vinegar I like is B.R. Cohn's Pear Chardonnay Vinegar, from Napa - Sonoma wine country.
I've used both Bartlett and Bosc pears to make this vinaigrette with great success. Do not use an Asian pear - they're too hard for this recipe.