Cathy's Blog

Picky Cook: Lemon Vinaigrette


Some books change your life forever. One of those books for me was Heartburn by the late Nora Ephron about her marriage to Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame, interspersed with recipes, which I read 30 years ago. I have forgotten the sad details of her ex-husband’s infidelity, but I still make her vinaigrette, and it never fails to make me and other people happy.

Like most recipes for simple, ordinary food, the quality of ingredients is paramount: the best first-press virgin olive oil you can afford (which you will never find in a bottle of prepared salad dressing–I’ve checked); Dijon mustard (my favorite has green peppercorns); fresh-squeezed lemon; and fresh garlic:

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced and pureed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ground peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 rounded teaspoon Dijon mustard

Smash the garlic on a cutting board with the side of a large, sharp knife to loosen the skin. If you find a green sprout in the center, remove it because it has an acrid taste. Mince well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and puree by smearing mixture with the side of a knife. Remove to a small dish.

Squeeze and strain a fresh lemon. Add juice to the puree a tablespoon at a time and stir until smooth. Pour the olive oil into a medium-sized bowl and whisk in the puree in small amounts until the oil emulsifies. According to Nora, proper consistency is only achieved when the liquid is stirred into the oil and not the other way around.

I make this dressing in small amounts because it’s best consumed fresh, but you can double or triple the recipe without adjusting amounts if you’re preparing for a crowd. It’s also good on cooked vegetables, fish, and seafood, and I confess that sometimes I eat it straight from the spoon. Nutritious!

August 16, 2015

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