tossed salad with raspberry vinaigrette

Speciality lettuce that comes six baby heads to a container, this is a mix of two of them. Sliced cucumber left over from Deena's fundraiser, apple, avocado, balcony tomatoes, grated gruyere cheese, fresh mint and dill. Ordinary vinaigrette sweetened with raspberry preserve. This is a small plate for the purpose of photography, I actually ate 5X this much -- a whole avocado and whole apple worth.

The best vinaigrette on Earth. Impress your guests by doing this right in front of them.

1) In a large wooden bowl, pour a few tablespoons of high quality olive oil. (Imagine the bowl filled with sufficient lettuce for all the guests, then pour in enough oil to coat that amount plus a little more to adhere to the bowl.)

2) Pour in a tablespoon or so of mild vinegar such as rice or Champaign. Again imagine it covering an imaginary pile of lettuce. The idea is to barely coat the lettuce, not drown it. These two ingredients alone comprise a simple dressing.

3) Add about 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard, which acts as an emulsifier and also has vinegar.

4) Salt and pepper sufficient for your imagined pile of lettuce. You can stop here, but why not keep going and make the mixture more complex?

5) Rasp in a clove of fresh garlic.

6) Rasp in an equal portion of fresh ginger.

7) Sweeten with honey or a good quality fruit or berry preserve. Two teaspoons should do. Whisk it all together.

If you're uncertain, taste it and adjust. If a guest is present, allow them to taste. Observe their face for traces of grimace of approving smile. If you suspect you've made too much then drain a portion into a separate bowl. The worst thing you can do is overdress the salad.

Add all the vegetable and protein ingredients and mix until lightly coated. Place onto salad plates so that each plate contains roughly equal portions of the key ingredients. There'll be no picking through the bowl for favored pieces at the table. Doll it up a little bit, give it a little elevation. Allow a few special ingredients to show.

All vinaigrette recipes you read begin with diced shallot, but frankly, adorable as they are -- among the mildest of the allium family, they're a bit of a pain to keep around. If you happen to have one, fine, add it, but it's not necessary, you've already got the garlic and that would be like double dosing.

For a party, I just present my guests with fixed salads. I don't mess around with bottled dressings, and I don't give my guests a choice. BANG! There it is, either eat it or don't. If I've ever hosted fussy eaters who've picked
through their salads, I haven't noticed. I have noticed, though, people scarfing them and going back to the bowl and cleaning out the remainder. Also, occasionally, when guests are present you'll have one or two say something like, "Oh, don't put any of ____ in mine. That's b.s., that is, accomocate that one or two if it's convenient and if you care to make them feel special, otherwise just continue along with your plan. Another way to work around that potential problem is to place all the ingredients onto dressed plate in separate piles and let the guests mix it themselves without the objectionable ingredient. I'm becoming more sensitive to vegetarians. In those cases, do leave out the meat or cheese or egg or whatever. Sometimes it hurts their precious little tummies, and you wouldn't want that.

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