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how to make a vinaigrette
Vinaigrettes are vinegar-based dressings that balance out the bitterness of the greens. The basic recipe for vinaigrette is:
2 parts oil + 1 part vinegar + a pinch of flavoring
Think of that as the basis for endless variations: balsamic vinegar + olive oil + freshly ground pepper, red wine vinegar + olive oil + toasted crushed walnuts, rice vinegar + sesame oil + ginger.
Take the flavoring ingredient -- smashed garlic or shallots, crushed roasted nuts, chopped fresh herbs or pepper -- and drizzle it generously with oil. Microwave for about 20 seconds (enough to heat the oil but not to cook with it). The heat helps coax out the flavors, and in the case of garlic, mellows the sharpness. Let the mixture cool down, then add the remaining oil and vinegar, and whisk quickly to blend.
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Of course, the best way to learn what you like in a salad is to jump in there and start making them yourself. Check out two of my favorite salad recipes for inspiration …
for the dressing
Roast the walnuts (pop them in the microwave for 45-60 seconds) to release their full flavor. Crush them gently and drizzle with olive oil. Microwave for 20 seconds, then let the mixture cool for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining oil, the vinegar, and a couple of grinds of pepper and whisk to stir.
Mix the greens, pear cubes, and crumbled cheese. Toss with dressing and serve.