Friday, July 26, 2013

basil vinaigrette

A couple of times over the past few months, I've glanced down at my thumbs, hoping they would have turned a deep emerald.  Or at least a nice olive green.  But, as the sorry state of my potted herbs will confess, I am not an instinctual gardener.

Here's the story.  This year I grew some fresh herbs out on the front deck.*  I lovingly potted them in soil, imagining fresh basil pesto, tabbouleh with parsley, and summery potato salad made with thyme.  Now I look back on my two-months-ago self and think—don't waste your time!  (Puns! Groan.)  These herbs were doomed the second they met me.  The parsley bolted (that's a thing, right? bolting?), the rosemary got all thin and spindly, and the rest of them wilted within inches of their lives.  Except the mint, which is totally dead.

(Merrick is kind enough to blame my wilting herbs on the crazy summer heat we've been having.  Have I mentioned the heat wave?  There is a short list of things that I am SO. OVER., and "heat wave" recently moved into the number-one spot, beating out "the copy machine at work" and "accidentally poking myself in the eye with the arm of the cat-eye sunglasses that I bought to look cool in the heat wave.")

Thankfully, because standing around an open heat source is the last thing any of us wants to do right now, this incredible basil vinaigrette needs only a blender, and then it can dance across your plate of fresh lettuce.  Pirouette across your grilled vegetables.  Electric slide over your crusts of bread.  Or just a simple two-step on your spoon, actually.  I've eaten it in all those ways and more, for such is the versatility of the basil vinaigrette. People, enjoy.

*If I'm being completely honest, I should tell you that this is actually my second attempt at growing basil within six weeks.  The first batch died within two weeks of getting it home—yet, magically, the bunch of cut basil that I bought stretched out roots almost the second I stuck it in water.  WHY??  I'm drowning in my own incompetence.  Somebody get me the phone number for a greenhouse.

Basil Vinaigrette
Makes 2 cups

I’ve adapted this, just barely, to suit my own tastes. The original is from the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook, via Gwendolyn at Patent and the Pantry.

If you don’t have a blender, you can make this with a food processor, too, but I like the texture created by the blender.  It feels thinner, more aerated, more like a vinaigrette and less like a pesto.

1½ ounces fresh basil leaves (about 1½ cups, packed)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup olive oil

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients except the olive oil and puree until blended.  With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream, until the dressing is smooth and completely combined.  Season to taste before serving.

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