One thing nine years of entering recipe contests has taught me is how to stretch and rethink single ingredients. Some contests limit the number of ingredients (e.g., “make a sophisticated main dish with four ingredients, including a box of jello!”) and/or require a sponsor product be used in an innovative way (e.g., “show us your best dessert recipe using frozen corn!”).
So refried beans have become quick thickeners for soups and stews, chunky salsas fast foundations for jambalaya and moroccan tagines, brownie mixes bases for soufflés, cookies, and cobblers, and, heaven help me, a can of beans the filling for an (inedible) chocolate cake.
But in a much tastier vein, fruit preserves, jams and jellies have proven themselves as no-fault multi-taskers, enriching and elevating everything from main dish glazes to bbq sauces to almost-instant desserts. They also work wonders for creating light, fruity salad dressings.
My template recipe for today’s dressing evolved from a recipe contest years ago calling for, you guessed it, a well-known brand of preserves. Since I ate salads all day every day, it wasn’t a stretch to start tinkering with salad dressings. This also happened to be a contest where the total number of ingredients was limited to 6 or 7, so I tried to keep the dressing as basic as possible.
In the process, I discovered that basic equaled delicious. A few tablespoons of sweet preserves, a bit of oil and acid, and poof, a great salad dressing materialized. Better still, it was versatile, light, and lowfat.
I didn’t win the contest, but the recipe fast entered my everyday cooking life.
This is remarkable for me because most other recipes (including my own) for lighter vinaigrettes have proven unremarkable at best, inedible at worst. Lighter vinaigrette concoctions are especially difficult to muster (particularly without aid of an industrial chemistry lab). That’s because cutting the oil often translates to overly tart, wet dressings (think soggy, acidic greens).
But the thickness and sweetness of the preserves remedies all, without the eight-syllable additives to boot. And because I’m placing no limits on total ingredients, you can tweak variations with any flavorful additions at will, from Dijon mustard to fresh herbs to exotic spices.
To get you started, I’ve listed some of my favorite combinations following the master recipe.
And last, a new twist, even for me. I had a bit of ginger preserves in the refrigerator, so I used my template to make a ginger-lime dressing. The subject? An impromptu salad made with leftover watermelon, chopped roasted & salted pistachios, and some slivered mint leaves from the garden.
We had nothing more than a purchased rotisserie chicken in accompaniment, but the assemblage ended up as one of the most satisfying meals we’ve had in awhile. I can’t flatter myself too much, though: in 90+ degree weather, cold suppers trump all.
1-2-3 Light Fruit Vinaigrette (Master Recipe)
If the preserves are chunky, chop them first, or give the entire batch of dressing a brief whirl in the blender or food processor.
3 tablespoons jam/preserves/jelly
1 tablespoon red, white wine, or balsamic vinegar (or fresh lime or lemon juice)
1 tablespoon oil (olive oil, canola oil, walnut oil, hazelnut oil, etc.)
Whisk all of the ingredients in a small bowl until blended. Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Makes 5 tablespoons.
Nutrition per Serving (1 tablespoon):Calories 42; Fat 2.5g (sat 0.7g, mono 1.6g, poly 0.2g); Protein 0g; Cholesterol 0mg; Carbohydrate 7.8g; Sodium 3.9mg.
(Note: I did the nutrition analysis using Diet Analysis Plus 7.0.1)
Optional whisk-ins:1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1-2 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs
1-2 teaspoons minced shallots
1/8-1/4 teaspoon dried spices
Large Batch of the Same Vinaigrette
You can keep this for up to a month in the refrigerator, stored in a tightly covered container.
1 cup jam/preserves/jelly
1/3 cup vinegar (or fresh lime or lemon juice)
1/3 cup oil (olive oil, canola oil, walnut oil, hazelnut oil, etc
Prepare as directed above for the small batch. Makes 1 and 2/3 cup.
Optional whisk-ins:Same as for smaller batches, but increase x 4 (or more, according to taste)
Persian Ginger-Lime (new, as of tonight)Ginger preserves, lime juice, olive oil, pinch of ground cardamom.
Double CitrusOrange marmalade, lemon juice, olive oil, pinch of ground coriander.
Balsamic FigFig preserves, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, fresh rosemary.
Summer RaspberrySeedless raspberry jam, red wine vinegar, olive oil, fresh thyme.
Blackberry SageSeedless blackberry jam, red wine vinegar, canola oil, dried sage.
French PlumPlum jam, white wine vinegar, hazelnut oil or olive oil, Dijon mustard, fresh thyme
Basil PeachPeach jam, white wine vinegar, canola oil, touch of Dijon mustard, chopped fresh basil