Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette

My parents came to visit today for a little while. So that meant one thing: a visit to the Strip District. They love when I take them to the Strip District. (They live about an hour away so visiting the Strip isn't as easy for them as it is for me). For those of you that are not from or are not familiar with Pittsburgh, the Strip District is not what it sounds like. It is a beautiful place full of delicious restaurants, amazing markets, and gourmet food shops. For anyone that loves to eat and/or cook, the Strip is the closest you can get to heaven on earth. Living 4 miles down the road from this neighborhood is just great. I'm in love the with Strip. I would go there every day if I could. My wallet, however, discourages that. My absolute favorite place in the Strip is the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company. Every time I walk into Penn Mac, I basically have to put on blinders. I want EVERYTHING. Gourmet cheeses, fresh herbs and spices, delicious produce, imported olive oils, fresh meat and pasta. Luckily, my parents and I showed up about 30 minutes before closing time so I didn't have much time to browse. (I can easily kill a good 45 minutes just browsing in there). I could go on and on and on about Penn Mac, but I will spare you. You should, however, visit them online (if you can't in person) to see just how amazing this place is. 

The spice section is overwhelming. I wanted one of everything, but settled for only these four.
REALLY excited about this 5-pepper blend. Can't wait to use it.
5 pounds of whole wheat flour for 5 bucks? Ok! And those bowties are going to become a pasta salad very soon. Stay tuned.
I usually try to avoid the cheese section of grocery stores. Cheese is amazing. It is ridiculous how much I love cheese. I want to go back in time and give a big hug to whoever invented cheese. I always end up buying too much cheese. One Market District trip left me with seven different types of cheeses in one purchase. I have a problem. But my mother has much more control than I do, so I let her explore the cases of delicious cheese at Penn Mac. She ended up buying a pound of some amazing farmhouse cheddar. Which she shared with me.

This is going to be a part of some delicious ham sandwiches next week for my road trip to Nashville. My parents and I may or may not have snacked on this on our way to dinner after our shopping trip. Well, that and the fresh prosciutto my mom bought.
Stan's Market, just a few blocks from Penn Mac, is another Strip favorite of mine. So much delicious and beautiful produce to choose from. It's not hard to walk out of there with 3 grocery bags full of fresh fruits and vegetables and herbs.

Those tomatoes will be going in my pasta salad. And my mother graciously shared her green bean purchase with me. Thanks, mom!

Penzey's Spices is another one of my favorite Strip spots. You can visit them online, too. Walking in there and all I want to do is buy one of everything and go home and cook all of the recipes. I went in there with one thing on my list (vanilla beans) and left with only one thing. That is a success.

They're so pretty and they smell like heaven. I will be making homemade vanilla extract with these later.
A successful shopping trip, I would say. I can't wait to go back. And spend all my money there.  

I got so distracted by the beauty of the Strip District that I forgot the point of this whole post. Which is homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Balsamic is one of my favorite flavors. Balsamic glazed roasted veggies. Balsamic nectarine pizza (I will post about this in the future). Balsamic vinaigrette.  Nothing is better than a good homemade balsamic vinaigrette, though. I don't know why I don't make homemade dressings more often. It's so damn easy.

All you need to do is grab a jar...
Yancey is curious.
...and your ingredients.

That green container is pure honey.
Open your jar. Pour in 1/2 cup of your favorite balsamic vinaigrette, 3/4 cup of olive oil (which ended up being the very last of your olive oil and now you're pissed because you forgot to buy some at Penn Mac today), 2 cloves of crushed or finely chopped garlic, 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon of the honey that your mom brought for you today (which was apparently given to her by some nuns that make it and it's so delicious you could eat it by itself even though you don't even like the taste of honey by itself), 2 teaspoons of dried basil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Everything in the jar? Good. Screw the lid on very tightly. Then shake the crap out of it. Shake shake shake, shake shake shake, shake your Ok. Sorry. Make sure you taste it to see if all the ratios of ingredients are to your liking. Feel free to add more or less of any of the ingredients if your palate is different than mine.

Congratulations! You have dressing! How easy was that? Store it in your fridge (making sure to shake before you use since the contents are going to separate) or save it for the pasta salad that you're going to be making for next week.

It tastes delicious on the fresh lettuce you bought at the farmer's market the other day.
Now go relax on the couch with some leftover soup and cookies and pat yourself on the back because that was the easiest thing you've "cooked" all week.


Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Pour each ingredient in a glass jar or bottle.
  2. Shake vigorously until all ingredients are well combined.
  3. Store in fridge, making sure to shake well before using.


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