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So the other day I was trying to recreate a hazelnut vinaigrette I sampled at Cafe Presse in Seattle. At first glance, this tiny hole-in-the-wall joint near Seattle University looks like a casual coffee shop or bar, with a few youngish folks hanging out at small tables with their laptops eating breakfast, delicious smells emanating out the open windows. Then we found the “back room” which was industrial hip and actually had tables set out for diners. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the small menu had a bounty of appealing items and everything we ordered was fresh and fantastic.
I immediately fell in love with their butter lettuce salad: whole leaves of butter lettuce barely swathed in a mild vinaigrette and sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts. I tasted sherry vinegar, I tasted shallots, but why was it so mild? I interrogated the waiter who was able to rattle off a list of some of the ingredients but, of course, I wanted to know more – so I asked him to check with the kitchen and to write down exactly what was in there. He came back with a slip of paper listing the ingredients. Upon reviewing them I was intrigued. Hmmmm…
Where to begin? I went to the website to see the description of the salad and just to browse. By now I was obsessed with Salade verte, described simply as “bibb lettuce with hazelnut vinaigrette.” OK…I then Googled hazelnut vinaigrette and found countless formulas. Back at Cafe Presse’s website I checked the blog, searched for hazelnuts and THERE WAS THE RECIPE! But I was still mystified…
Hmmm, I thought. I couldn’t taste Dijon mustard in the dressing I had eaten. So I proceeded to make the recipe as written except that I cut the Dijon to one teaspoon and used organic canola in lieu of soy oil. The dressing turned out to be thick like mayonnaise, which I was not expecting at all. Even with a third the amount of Dijon called for it was too tangy so I added about two teaspoons of honey to satiate my taste buds. Bottom line: it was really good, but not as a salad dressing. I ended up using this eggless mayo as a spread and slathered it on all kinds of sandwiches, used it as a dip for blanched veggies (think asparagus, green beans, pepper slices, etc.), dunked skewers of chicken in the mixture, shmeared it on leftover steak and grilled mushrooms. It was great, just not as a salad dressing.
My son and I agreed that the mustard was “tee double oh” for us. I’ll regroup and make the dressing and try to thin it out a bit. Meanwhile I have a good accidental vegan dip or spread in my repertoire! Hey, I might even put this in cute jars with tags and use them as hostess gifts.
In keeping with the vegan theme, for lunch yesterday I made a sandwich and “repurposed” previously served bits of food: I covered one slice of whole wheat bread with this hazelnut “mayo” and toasted sunflower seeds, and on the other slice of bread I had mashed avocado, sliced tomato, blanched asparagus, and slivers of orange pepper. What a lunch!
Makes 2 cups
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1/3 cup organic hazelnuts
- 2 tsp peeled roughly chopped shallots
- 1/2 cup sherry vinegar-next time I’d do a little less
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp honey
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
- 1 cup canola oil
Heat the orange juice to a boil in a small saucepan. Lower heat and let it reduce to 1/2 cup. Cool. Toast the hazelnuts, remove the skins and cool. (Note: I bought them toasted already with the skins removed. Win!)
Put the reduced orange juice, hazelnuts, shallots, sherry vinegar, mustard, honey, and Dijon mustard in the blender. Add salt and pepper. Blend until homogenous, then drizzle in the oil to thicken.
Keep refrigerated. This will last about 1-2 weeks.