Full disclaimer – Alice Waters’ way with food has completely changed my way around the kitchen, how I approach my menu, and what tools I use and how. From her countenance, humble approach to home cooked meals and not to mention her gentle tone, oh…it just swung a door wide open for me that I haven’t been able to shut.
The first thing I noticed were her hands. She touched everything, she dipped her fingers to taste it all and tore into her ingredients with a knife as her backup. Why? There was a very apparent connection to her food, in a different way than I am used to seeing. I am all for home cooked meals, organic produce, shopping local, etc. but there was a simplicity to her approach in the kitchen that unraveled my preconceptions of chefs, all chefs.
After watching her Masterclass, I then started checking out all her books and the one that I held onto the longest was In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart: Cookbook. Her salad dressing technique is what this post is about. Using a mortar and pestle, you crush the garlic with some salt till its no longer visible and then add in your vinegar (apple cider, white wine, etc.) and oil. Additionally, you can add in herbs, mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, capers, you name it! Its a technique I now know by heart, and is how I developed our Rich and Creamy Caesar Dressing with Apple Cider Vinegar.
If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can mince up your garlic but I would HIGHLY recommend you invest in one. There are just too many uses for it that I can’t help but suggest you purchase one.
At home, we have been working on getting rid of items in our home and really holding onto ones with multiple uses, and with great value and joy for our family. I do not recommend items loosely, only ones that have been a real work horse for us in our kitchen and this time around it would be the mortar and pestle.
Here are a few of my own suggestions for you (we do get paid a bit when you purchase one of these, fyi):
Alice Waters suggests using a Suribachi, something like this https://amzn.to/3o5DUwS
I would purchase this one for my next mortar and pestle (I currently have an old bamboo one and smells seem to stick more easily), https://amzn.to/3twJRDZ
We make salads a few times a week and there are always different toppings on it, depending on what we have in the fridge. My suggestion would be to mix different greens when you can, add color and something with a crunch! Also, make sure you taste your salad dressing, get into the practice of always tasting everything. You definitely want your dressing to lean more toward the saltier side, there should be a pleasant zing to it. Have fun and I know this salad dressing technique will add simplicity and humility to your time in the kitchen, letting quality ingredients stand out for themselves.
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Colorful Mixed Greens Salad with Versatile Rustic Dressing
Color makes salads visually appealing, add a little crunch, create your own unique salad dressing and you have one delicious salad!
1 loaf of Italian bread, cut into 1in slices and then cubed
4 tbsp of olive oil
1 1/2 tsp of salt
1 tsp of black pepper, ground
1 head of romaine lettuce, sliced into ribbons
1 cup of baby arugula
1 cup of baby spinach
1 cup of baby kale
1 red or orange bell pepper, seeded and slivered
2 Persian cucumbers or 1/2 English cucumber, cut into rounds
5 baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
15 Kalamata olives
15 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup of sliced pepperoncini’s
1/4 cup of feta cheese, crumbled
sprinkle of Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 finger pinch of salt
3-4 tbsp of red wine vinegar (I always prefer a bit more acidity to my dressings)
7-8 tbsp of olive oil
grilled or pan seared chicken breast
pepitas, also know as pumpkin seeds
- Croutons: Set oven to 325F degrees. Cut the loaf of Italian bread into 1in thick slices and then cube the slices. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cubed bread, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss until evenly coated. and place on two rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes. Tossing and rotating the pans after 10 minutes. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to one week.
- Salad: Rinse your greens thoroughly a day prior if you’d like to prep ahead of time or right before is fine too, just use a salad spinner to dry your greens. Ripe your greens into smaller pieces with your hands or cut them up with your knife. Gather all of your toppings and place them on top of your greens (omit your protein till after you have dressed everything). Set aside and lets make our dressing!
- Dressing: Grab your mortar and place peeled garlic clove and pinch of salt in it and start using the pestle to crush the garlic until it is no longer visible. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, chop up your garlic finely and place it in a bowl with your salt and keep following along. Grind in some black pepper, add in your vinegar (I love red wine vinegar but feel free to use lemon juice, apple cider, white wine, balsamic, etc. instead) and use a small whisk to start bringing all of the ingredients together, make sure to scrap the edges of the bowl a bit to release your garlic. Next, emulsify your olive oil, drizzle it in slowly but whisk it vigorously. Taste your dressing and add more salt, black pepper or adjust your acidity as you desire. *Alice Waters suggests taking a piece of your salad and dipping it into your dressing to taste*. Pour it onto your salad, mix it up with tongs and serve. Now is the time to add your protein and crunch on top. Enjoy!
*Once you get the technique down, have fun with swapping out vinegars and oils, spice it up, add herbs, shallots, mayo, cream, mustards. The variations are limitless and can be adapted to your lifestyle and palate.