I went through a vegetarian phase when I was about 12 or 13 and my parents, though life long meat-eaters, didn’t bat an eyelash. They used it as an excuse to encourage me to be more involved in cooking meals, offering to do a veggie meal a couple nights a week. My grandpa, my mom’s dad, was the one who put up the biggest protest. One Sunday night over a plate of roast beef, he proclaimed: “Alexandra, the good lord put animals on this earth for us to eat,” and I shot back, “well Grandpa, maybe the good lord was wrong.” Awkward silence ensued broken only by my mom offering, “they don’t make ‘em like they use to, Dad.”
During this period, my parents bought me a copy of Linda McCartney’s Vegetarian Cookbook. I think it was the first cookbook that really belonged to me, and I remember eagerly flipping through the pages imagining all the possibilities. It was around that time that my mom started working full-time again and I had to make dinner two nights a week. I took the responsibility very seriously, always running to catch the early bus so I would have enough time to get everything done. I cooked a lot out of Linda McCartney’s book – salads, pastas, even an ambitious stuffed chard leaf dish one night. The vegetarian thing didn’t last, but it did mark the beginning of my independence in the kitchen. One of my favorite recipes from that time is Linda McCartney’s poppy seed dressing.
I’ve long since lost track of the book, but I do have an increasingly tattered index card with the recipe neatly scribed by my mom. So here it is, a recipe that’s been with me for more than a decade, and one that never disappoints. It’s a perfectly balanced little dressing made pretty with blue flecks of poppy. Use it for any salad where you’d serve a slightly sweet dressing. Tonight I’m going with greens, a sectioned grapefruit, and some sliced red onion (soaked in salted water for 30 min to take away the bite), and a sliced avocado.
For the Dressing
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 medium shallot, finely minced
- 1 ¾ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup poppy seeds
- Salt and pepper
Combine the honey, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and shallot in a blender and pulse until well combined and there are no large pieces of shallot visible. With the blender running, slowly pour in the olive oil to make an emulsification. Pour the dressing into a small bowl or jar and whisk in the poppy seeds by hand.
This recipe makes about 2 ½ cups of dressing, much more than you need for one salad, which will last refrigerated in a sealed jar for 2-3 weeks. Remove the dressing from the fridge 30 minutes before you want to use it to allow the oil to come to room temperature. (It will have solidified in the fridge.) Whisk or shake well and pour.
Other ideas for the salad part:
crumbled blue cheese and toasted pecans
dried cranberries, feta, and pepitas
sliced apples or pears and toasted walnuts
toasted pine nuts, chopped chives, and crumbled goat cheese