The salads I prepare at home were transformed when Lorraine and I went on our pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. We started in Paris, on our bicycles, and rode to the Pyrenees, then west across the top of Spain to the city of Santiago de Compostela, following the ancient pilgrimage route taken by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims over the centuries. We stayed mostly at pilgrim refuges, and many of them serve dinner. In Spain, wherever we dined, it seems we were served a fresh salad of crisp lettuce, cucumbers, and thick slices of juicy red and green tomatoes. I realized suddenly one evening at the table that I loved the fresh juicy salads, and that the reason why is that they were not dripping with the oily, salty sweet sauce that defines the american salad. It was simply, deliciously and lightly drizzled with olive oil, splashed with vinegar, and sprinkled with salt.
Herbal vinegar is a delicious start to many wonderful dishes and it is important to remember that, delicious as it is on salads, it can be used on many other foods as well. It can be drizzled over steamed cabbage or halved, steamed brussels sprouts, dashed onto fresh spinach or fish and chips, added to homemade mayonnaise, salad dressings or tartar sauce. One tablespoon of vinegar has only 3 calories, and 0.1 gram of sugar! The acidity of cider vinegar allows it to keep quite well for a long time. For safety, store this herbal vinegar in the refrigerator.
You can choose any number of herbs or spices to make your infused vinegar. Oregano, thyme, sage, chive, cinnamon, clove, or garlic, for example. My version here is rosemary-infused, which is a lot of fun and surprisingly very, very easy to make.
Rosemary Infused Vinegar:
Choose fresh, blemish-free stalks of rosemary, and rinse off any dirt or debris. Cut a stem of rosemary for each bottle. Make sure the stem will fit in the bottle with an inch or two to spare. Wash the bottles you are planning to use in the dishwasher just before making the vinegar. Be sure they go through the complete cycle so they are thoroughly dry. When ready to fill, take the bottles out of the dishwasher.
Slightly bruise the rosemary, and slip a stem into each bottle. Bring the apple cider vinegar to a boil, simmer for a few minutes, then pour into the bottles using a funnel. Allow to cool, then seal with a lid or a cork.
Allow to steep for two weeks, keeping them in the refrigerator. They can be used immediately, but it will take a couple of weeks for the flavor to infuse throughout. Remove the stem after a month so the flavor does not get too strong.
More homemade gift ideas from Jeanne:
Squash Molasses Homemade Raisins Crispie Almonds Homemade Cheese Sticks