Saturday, April 10, 2010

Grilled Leek and Tomato Vinaigrette

Making your own vinaigrette is like putting on sunglasses. It makes you that much cooler and is really easy to do. And by really easy I mean if you have figured out how to wake up in the morning and get to work you have already met and surpassed all intellectual requirements.

You need to know one basic concept and once you have that (which takes just over 2 seconds to understand)you have the Golden Ticket to Tasty Vinaigrette Land! The basic concept to vinaigrettes is that it you only need two ingredients; oil and acid. Any oil will do (canola, olive, walnut, etc.) and any acid will do (wine, vinegar, citrus, etc) to make your greens super-duper tasty. Combine these two ingredients and whisk, or shake, the bejeebers out of it and dress your salad immediately. The possibilities are endless, tasty, and encourage you to experiment. All the ingredients are easy to keep pantry items as well, so you can whip up of succulent salad dressing in seconds while your amazed onlookers gape at your culinary skillz.

There is a third component that plays an extremely useful role in keeping your vinaigrette from separating back out to just oil and acid. It is an emulsifier and it emulsifies through emulsification. (I was curious if a sentence with that word three times would make sense.) Basically an emulsifier (usually egg yolk, mayo, or mustard) binds little bits of acid to little bits of oil and you can see this by the vinaigrette taking on a creamy sheen instead of staying visually separated.

While it is so easy to make your own vinaigrette, there is so much that I could talk about that this post would be very, very long. So I am going to skip to today's recipe and anyone seeking more info/explanation can comment/email for it?

This recipe was originally a "charred tomato vinaigrette" that I made for a special at my work. Buddy and blog follower MisterTB made it at home and added in grilled leeks. I likie, so I made it again with the grilled leeks. Ironically I also made it at work again so my only photo of this dish is on the work grill.

I took a box of cherry tomatoes, tossed them with salt, pepper, and oil, and put them on the grill with the leeks. Leeks grow in sand so it is important to halve them lengthwise and rinse them out between the layers real good like. Nobody likes a sandy salad dressing. I grilled the tomatoes until their little sides split and the leeks until mostly tender. All in all not very long on the ol' grill. Into the food processor they went and I pureed until somewhat smooth. Now the tomatoes have their own acid, but I still wanted a little more so in went a tbs or so of red wine vinegar and a squeeze of lemon. A dollop of mayo was put in to stabilize the emulsion and keep it creamy. I used mayo because it is fairly neutral in flavor instead of a mustard which would have added an extra tang. I wanted the vinaigrette to taste like tomatoes and leeks, not mustard. With the machine running I dribbled in about 3 tbs of oil, stopping every couple of seconds to make sure it was all emulsifying and not getting oily and nastyish. At the end I salted and peppered until I liked the taste. As I previously mentioned I did this at work for a special so this vinaigrette was used there. The dish was grilled swordfish loin over a bed of arugula topped with this vinaigrette and fried leek ribbons.

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