In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

How to Master Vinaigrette



Do not invite me over and serve an undressed salad and give me a choice of bottled dressings.

Bottled dressing is hideous. Overly acidic, full of weird emulsifiers (truly: do this. Pour a little bit of bottled dressing on your spoon. Place contents of spoon in your mouth. Hold it on your tongue. You will feel it first, rather than taste it -- it will feel thick. Then slowly you'll get a hit of acid -- probably citric acid. Then it will feel viscous again and you'll start to get the honey-mustard-oregano-Russian whatever it is you bought it for).


This is a waste of money and an insult to Ms. Life, not to mention green leaves everywhere.

Your delicious little leaves deserve the utterly minimal effort of a homemade vinaigrette, and they deserve to be dressed ahead of time, lightly. You wouldn't want your host putting you out in front of guests naked, would you? (Maybe you would. I don't know you.)

Nothing worse than tossing your own salad (stop it!). Individual salad bowls do not have the room to do it yourself at the table, so some leaves are covered and others are dry. Totally unacceptable.

If you are a remotely interested cook, and I mean remotely, you probably have everything you need on hand: It's three parts good olive oil to one part acid - vinegar or citrus, or a mix of the two. That's it.

Got it? pour three tablespoons of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon acid -- balsamic vinegar is sweet, red wine vinegar less so, cider vinegar works on and on. OR squeeze in a lemon (not the whole thing, just a tablespoon, or maybe a hair less). Whip it together with a fork until its thick and cloudy (this is called emulsifying... the natural way). That's it. You're done. Less time than opening the fridge and plunking that nasty cold bottle on the table.

You can gussy it up with all sorts of stuff -- I usually add a touch of Dijon mustard (not regular mustard). You can grate in citrus zest. The juice of a tomato. A wee bit of honey. A tiny bit of coarse salt. Lime juice (fresh only). You can put in grated ginger and replace a little of the oil with sesame oil (then add in just a splash of soy sauce). Minced garlic. Minced shallots or scallions. But let them all float in a sea of three to one, olive-oil to-acid.

Put this mixture in the bottom of a salad bowl. Not too much -- too much and your salad is limp and wilted and you don't taste any green. Put your cleaned greens on top (I am partial to JUST greens -- a mix of baby lettuces, especially arugula, maybe purslane, snipped herbs -- basil, tarragon, dill -- edible flowers for gorgeousness (try the lavendery basil flowers you snip off your herb garden). Toss gently, scooping up from the bottom. As the leaves touch the bottom of the bowl they will get a nice touch of dressing.

If the salad is too dry, add a bit more, toss gently.

BANISH THE BOTTLE. In this case, it shall be I who thank you.

("You're welcome, Pam!")


  1. clearly, you and I were separated at birth.

  2. You speak the truth, internet friend.

  3. i AM your internet friend!