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Monday, February 28, 2011

Two Fruit Vinaigrettes and the Return of Spring!

Huizache in bloom...the return of Spring

Two Fruit Vinaigrettes and the Return of Spring!

by Victoria Challancin

I can't complain of the brutal winter.  No, not here in Central Mexico where the climate is perfect.  I can't complain.  But each year, as Life returns to the plants of the campo near my house where I walk my dogs daily, I can gasp in awe at the beauty of Nature, at the determination of Life Force, at the green peaking through the fire-scorched black of burned grasses, at green cactus paddles clinging to the hope of rebirth, at huizaches giving off their rich, sweet scent as they blaze forth in bloom, Life, in general. At Possibilities.  At Beauty.  At Regeneration.  At Hope.  And I am thankful from the depths of my being.

And as I give thanks, I look to the Middle East, land of my heart where I lived for many years, and I muse again at Possibilities, at Regeneration,  at the Determination of the human being to grow and change, at Hope.  And once again, I am humbled and in awe.  And hopeful.  Very, very hopeful.

A Huizache tree, bursting forth in full bloom

In last week's class on Healthy International Cooking that I taught to my talented, eager Mexican cooks, I offered a blitz of salads and vinaigrettes.  These two dressings, made from fresh, seasonal fruits, are a delight to a winter-tired palate.  Bursting with flavor, each one lends itself to countless interpretations.

A Strawberry Dressing with a hint of sour cream

For this dressing, after checking out number of Strawberry Vinaigrettes, I borrowed this one from the blog Our Life in the Kitchen. Although it is absolutely delicious as we made it, I can see a number of possible variations:  Sharpen it a touch with a hint of unseasoned rice vinegar or a few drops of lemon juice; add depth with a teaspoon of grated ginger; brighten the flavor by adding a bit of fresh mint (perhaps it is best to add it to the salad instead of the dressing, as it would dull the color, which is so pretty as is).  I call this a "vinaigrette," but, as you can see, it doesn't include vinegar, but relies instead on the strawberries to provide the acid.  

Strawberry Vinaigrette

1 cup strawberries
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
a bit of sugar (if needed--the berries act as the acid, but sometimes they are sour)
3 tablespoons cream (or sour cream--low fat is fine)

Toss it all in the blender and puree.  Check and adjust seasoning--salt, pepper, or more sugar, if needed.

A Mango Vinaigrette, screaming for fresh beets

We served this dressing with a green salad made of baby mesclun, slivers of red onion, alfalfa sprouts,  and some grated raw beets.  I have made many variations on this recipe (using no real recipe) in the past and love it with grated carrots, jícama, raw beets, and any salad which includes a bit of fresh fruit.  Once again, you can play with the flavors.  Grated ginger comes to mind, yet again.

Mango Vinaigrette
(Recipe from
1 mango, peeled
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro or mint
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey mustard (or Dijon)
1 cup vegetable oil or light olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the mango flesh away from the pit and chop the mango coarsely. Place the mango and all the remaining ingredients, except the oil, salt, and pepper, in a blender or food processor and puree. With the machine running, drizzle in the oil. Add the salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.


A green salad with young lettuces, arugula, watercress, and fresh strawberries--undressed

The strawberry vinaigrette again, because I like this flowered pitcher

The dressed salad

The return of Spring...and I am in awe...over and over again

Victoria Challancin
Flavors of the Sun Cooking School
San Miguel de Allende, México

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.


Dimah said...

Those look so good! Loved the recipes..thanks for sharing!

Ben said...

I can't complain about the winter in Mexico, either. It's annoyingly perfect. And spring is so pretty I can't wait to start snapping pictures right and left :) I love your campo pictures. Brings back so many good memories.