This is a light way to dress cool summer salads or robust fresh vegetables from the garden; it is also delightful as a garnish to grilled fish or chicken. Champagne vinegar — milder, and a bit softer on the palate — will work with the natural sugars and earthiness of your garden vegetables without masking any flavors. You can trade out the champagne vinegar and chervil in the cooler months for a cider vinegar or white (or even red) wine vinegar, and switch from chervil to flat leaf parsley. Since there is no Dijon mustard or eggs to aid the emulsification process, use hot water to extend the flavorful olive oil into the other ingredients.
Makes scant ½ cup (enough to lightly — and perfectly — dress about 8 cups of salad greens)
1 small shallot, sliced paper thin
1 teaspoon minced garlic, then rubbed into a paste with a sprinkle of sea salt
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (We use an oil sourced from Sonoma County with herbal-floral notes)
1 tablespoon hot water
2 teaspoons sugar (or to taste)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped, fresh sweet basil (or chiffonade for a more elegant presentation)
2 teaspoons chervil leaves, chopped
Fresh ground pepper
Combine the shallot, garlic and sea salt paste, and vinegar in a small mixing bowl and whisk vigorously to combine and blend flavors. Add the hot water and sugar (use less to start), and while whisking, add the olive oil in a slow stream. Continue whisking until an emulsified dressing is achieved. Stir in the basil and chervil. Taste. Adjust seasonings and add fresh ground pepper. Serve immediately.
[Chef’s Note: Dressing can be prepared in advance. It will keep for a few hours at room temperature, or in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature and re-whisk to re-emulsify the dressing if necessary.]
Recipe by Donna Marie Zotter