A key ingredient of Grilled Radicchio Salad, a delicious salad we fell in love with at Lambert’s of Taos, is a traditional balsamic vinaigrette. The first time I tried to recreate this salad, I combined roughly equal parts traditional balsamic and olive oil. That works great for flavored white balsamic, but not so much for a traditional balsamic. It wasn’t bad, but I knew it could be better.
I found a recipe for balsamic vinaigrette at chinesegrandma.com. Not only does she use it on salads, but she also drizzles it over grilled vegetables, spreads it on sandwiches, and gives it as a hostess gift. I decided to try it. OMG! I had to stop myself from eating it all straight out of the jar. It’s amazing! I’ve even served it over strawberries for dessert.
A Lesson in Garlic
I also learned something, which I’m a bit embarrassed to admit. The ingredients listed “1 garlic clove, crushed (or minced if you like a stronger garlic flavor).” In the past when I saw garlic in a recipe, I assumed it meant to crush garlic with a garlic press and to mince garlic with a food chopper or knife. Chinese Grandma’s comment about leaving the crushed garlic clove in the jar to sit at the bottom and release its subtle flavor confused me.
I googled “minced vs. crushed garlic.” According to Elizabeth Branch at myrecipes.com, “Both crushed and minced garlic can enhance dishes. Crushed garlic releases mild flavor over a long period of time, while minced garlic has a more intense, immediate flavor. To crush garlic, mash the cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife. To mince garlic, you can chop it yourself or use a garlic press. If you use a garlic press, keep in mind that it can bruise the cloves and create a bitter taste.”
In preparation for this blog post, I made this recipe six times to test variations of ingredients: balsamic vinegar vs. Molto Denissimo, regular dijon vs. whole grain, crushed vs. minced garlic. Venice Olive Oil’s Molto Denissimo is like a traditional balsamic reduction. While I love it in many dishes I make, it didn’t make much difference in this one. Since it’s more expensive, I’ll stick with a good quality traditional balsamic for this recipe.
For me, it was a toss up between regular and whole grain dijon. Both were good. The biggest surprise was the difference in crushed vs. minced garlic. I’m a garlic lover; I often double the amount of garlic a recipe calls for. In this case, I preferred the subtle taste of the crushed garlic or none at all.
The ingredients in this recipe are Chinese Grandma’s. I modified the instructions slightly.
For years when I’d measure honey, I’d always overfill the spoon or cup to account for what would be stuck to the measuring device. Then it occurred to me that if I put oil on the spoon first, the honey would slide right out. It works for mustard, mayonnaise, and other gooey substances too. If the recipe calls for a ¼ cup or more of cooking oil, dip the spoon in the oil before measuring the honey, otherwise just put a drop of oil in the spoon and swirl it around to coat the spoon.
Active time: 5 minutes Total time: 5 minutes
Specialized One-Butt Kitchen Utensils
- Nothing special for this one.
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard (or whole grain dijon)
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- ¼ cup traditional balsamic vinegar
- 1 garlic clove, crushed (or minced if you like a stronger garlic flavor) (optional)
Crush the garlic clove under the edge of a chef’s knife, or mince it for a stronger garlic flavor. If you’re not a garlic fan, leave it out altogether.
Pour the olive oil into a small bowl. Dunk a tablespoon in the oil to coat it. Measure the honey and watch it all slide right out of the spoon into the bowl. There should still be enough oil on the spoon for the second tablespoon, but you may have to dunk the spoon again before measuring the mustard. Add salt, pepper, balsamic, and garlic, if desired. Stir with a fork until well mixed. (I found that if I didn’t mix it well enough, the oil had a tendency to separate while stored in the refrigerator.) Pour into a jar for storage.