Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hearts of Romaine Lettuce with Lemon Dill Balsamic Dressing

     Lettuce wedge salads are not something you see very often in today's age, but they are not quite an item of the past.  Classic fine dining thin romaine lettuce wedge salads of the late 1800's to the 1930's were eaten by holding the stalk end of the wedge with fingers, then swirling the romaine wedge in the dressing on the plate.  That was the fine dining style of that period in culinary history.  Petite composed salads that have exotic ingredients are the trendy style of today's age.  
     If you are tired of overpowering balsamic dressings, then this recipe will be very pleasing.  Many chefs use far too much balsamic vinegar in any recipe that calls for balsamic vinegar.  Sure balsamic vinegar tastes great, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.  Balsamic vinegar has such a strong flavor, that it must be used like a spice, if delicate flavor combinations are the goal.  The exception is for rare aged cave evaporated balsamic vinegars.  Those types of balsamic vinegars should be featured, but with much needed moderation.  Balsamic vinegars that are aged for 25 or more years, command a high price.
     This dressing uses just a dab of mayonnaise as a starting base for the finished product.  I used to work in French restaurants that never bought mayonnaise.  We made our own.  Many salad dressings are emulsified in a similar manner to making mayonnaise, when the dressing recipe is first started.  Mayonnaise can save time, just like hollandaise can be added to a creme veloute to make a quick allemande sauce.  Yes, there are shortcuts in French cooking, but the ingredients for shortcuts still do take extensive time to prepare.  Store bought mayonnaise is fine for creating the start of this dressing's thin body.
     Lemon Dill Balsamic Dressing Recipe: 
     Place 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise into a small mixing bowl.
     Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.
     Add 2 pinches of coarsely ground black pepper.
     Add sea salt.
     Add 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar.
     Add 1/2 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped dill weed.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Add just enough water to turn the dressing into a very thin consistency.  (About 1 to 2 tablespoons.)
     The dressing should be a very pale beige color.  The sour lemon flavor and semi sweet rich balsamic flavor should be equal in taste.  This dressing should look thin and watery.  All this dressing should do, is carry its own lemon balsamic flavor and dill weed flavor to the lettuce.
     Hearts of Romaine Lettuce with Lemon Dill Balsamic Dressing:
     Trim and wash 1 small head of romaine lettuce.
     Air dry the lettuce.
     Cut the head of romaine in half lengthwise.
     Split one half of the romaine in half lengthwise to create 2 quarter wedges.
     Place the 2 romaine quarter wedges on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with 6 thin plum tomato slices, so they overlap and so they are partially tucked under the lettuce wedges.
     Place thin mushroom slices on the plate around the tomato slices.
     Garnish the plate with thin lemon wedge slices, by the stem ends of the lettuce wedges.
     Place 2 boiled egg halves on the lemon slices.
     Garnish the plate with dill weed sprigs.
     Generously spoon the thin dressing over the lettuce wedges.  (Be sure to stir the dressing, so the chopped dill carries evenly.)
     This is a very nice light and delicious salad!  Use lots of chopped dill in the dressing for the fresh green garden herb flavor effect.  The balsamic vinegar flavor has a very delicate presence in this dressing.

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