Upper Midwestern Oils and Vinegars for Spring Salads

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Spring  is coming – chives are beginning to peek up through the muck, and mounds of lush greens will soon be piled high in market stalls. But in the meantime, thank God for those stalwart farmers who have been coaxing lovely lettuces from their hoop and greenhouse flats. DragSmith Farms (Barron, WI) and River Root Farm (Decorah, IA) are delivering micro-mixes of broccoli, mizuna, choi, mustard, purple cabbage, kale, amaranth, beet, spinach, kale, sorrel, arugula, and sweet pea shoots to co-ops and eateries across the Cities through this bitter season.

Though delicate, these greens are power-packed with phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals, and they’re delicious dressed with local oils and vinegars.

Bruce Manning / Heavy Table

Bruce Manning / Heavy Table

Driftless Organic Sunflower Oil, pressed from organic sunflowers in Southwestern Wisconsin, is light yellow and tastes of sunflower seeds. It retails for $11.60 per bottle and is generally available at the Twin Cities Natural Food Co-ops and some Whole Foods. It’s always in stock at the Wedge and Seward, and Grassroots Gourmet, Midtown Global Market, and Local D’Lish. (Also see our story on Smude’s Sunflower Oil, pictured above.)

Omega Maiden Camelina Oil, from Lamberton, Minnesota, is a more viscous, nutty tasting oil with lush golden hues. It retails for $13 per bottle and is available at most Twin Cities Natural Food Co-ops, especially the Wedge and Seward, Grassroots Gourmet, Midtown Global Market, Local D’Lish, and online.

Hay River’s Pumpkin Seed Oil, from Prairie Farm, Wisconsin, is a rich, dark brownish green with a distinctly pumpkin-seed flavor that works beautifully with whole grains. It retails for $19 per bottle. It’s available at the Twin Cities Natural Food Co-ops, Grassroots Gourmet, Midtown Global Market, and online.

Years ago every farm made its own vinegar. Today, Leatherwood Vinegary in Long Prairie, Minnesota, carries on the tradition with a wide and wild range of farmstead vinegars from its prodigious gardens – rhubarb, jalapeno, and blueberry to name a few. Leatherwood Vinegary’s vinegar sampler packs (four 1.7-ounce bottles) run $15 each; fruit vinegars run $12 each and herb vinegars, $15. These are occasionally available at Mill City Farmers Market, St. Paul Farmers’ Market, and select specialty stores, such as Golden Fig, St. Paul, Gourmet Oil & Vinegar, and Vinaigrette Gourmet Olive Oil and Vinegar, and Stillwater Olive Oil Company, Grassroots Gourmet, Midtown Global Market, Local D’Lish, and Cannon Falls’ Ferndale Market. But your best bet is to order online.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Hoch Orchards, Le Crescent, Minnesota, is producing  mild apple cider vinegar and lovely raspberry vinegar. Hoch Orchard Raspberry & Apple Cider Vinegar retails for $6.50 per bottle and is available at most Twin Cities Natural Food Co-ops, and Grassroots Gourmet, Midtown Global Market, and Local D’Lish.

Verjus from Locust Lane, whose vineyards are in Southwest Minnesota, is made from the juice of unripened red or white grapes. It’s very gentle; just a splash perks up fruit salads and grilled fish, and I use it as I do citrus. Verjus is not fermented so its use in a vinaigrette or salad dressing won’t interfere with the flavor of an accompanying wine. Red verjus has an earthier flavor while white has a crisper taste. Locust Lanes Vineyard Verjus retails for $15 per bottle and is available at Cooks of Crocus Hills stores, Golden Fig, and Local D’Lish.

Here are a few simple vinaigrettes and dressings for local salads. While you’re at it, toss in some hope!

Beth Dooley / Heavy Table

Beth Dooley / Heavy Table

Rule of thumb for salad-to-dressing ratios:

–       Salad Greens: Plan on about 4 to 6 servings per pound of salad or about 1-1/2 cups per person.
–       Dressing / Vinaigrette: Plan on about ¼ cup of vinaigrette per 4 to 6 servings of greens or about 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoon per person.

Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette

Makes  a very scant cup

That fresh maple syrup isn’t just for pancakes.  This is great on salads with wild rice and chicken. Use it as a glaze for grilled pork just before it’s finished cooking.

½ cup sunflower oil
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup apple cider or rhubarb vinegar
2 tablespoons coarse ground mustard (try LocalFolks Foods Stone Ground Mustard)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put all of the ingredients into a jar with a cap and shake vigorously.

Heat & Honey Vinaigrette

Makes 1 scant cup

Look for Lucky’s hot sauces. Habañero is our favorite for its robust kick, but they’re all top-notch. This tart-sweet dressing works nicely with more robust greens – kale, arugula, sorrel.

½ cup camelina oil
1 tablespoon honey, or more to taste
¼ cup fruit vinegar, raspberry or strawberry or cherry
2 shots hot sauce, or more to taste (Lucky’s Hot Sauce Habañero with Garlic)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put all of the ingredients into a jar with a cap and shake vigorously.

 

Ruth Burke / Heavy Table

Ruth Burke / Heavy Table

Pumpkin Oil Ginger Vinaigrette

Makes about ½ cup

Like lemon or blood orange juice, verjus works beautifully with the warming flavors of ginger. Try this on a rice salad or drizzle it over fruit.

¼ cup pumpkin seed oil
¼ cup verjus, red or white
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Salt or freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Put all of the ingredients into a jar with a cap and shake vigorously.

Greenest Goddess

Makes a scant cup

Great on chicken or salmon salads, or swirl this into cold tomato soup. It’s light and tangy.

½ cup Greek yogurt
¼ cup apple cider or raspberry vinegar
¼ cup camelina or sunflower oil
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon smooth mustard (try Mustard Girl’s Honey Mustard)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and pulse until thoroughly combined.

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