Pros: Small and focused on one topic (I like that)
Perfect Vinaigrettes: Appetizers to Desserts
Rated #9 in Culinary Arts & Techniques
"If you know how to prepare a vinaigrette, then you know how to cook" Stephanie Sedgwick quoted from "Perfect Vinaigrettes Appetizers to Desserts"
Although great vinaigrettes seem to be somewhat of a lost art (especially in today's world of pre-made dressings), Linda Dannenberg leads the way for any that are eager to learn the necessary techniques of making perfect vinaigrettes.
In her beautifully done book, "Perfect Vinaigrettes Appetizers to Desserts" Dannenberg takes the mystery out of preparing perfect vinaigrettes by walking the reader step by step through the process. Broken down into easy to read sections, the book is a great starter for the beginner cook or an excellent reference for the more advanced. Perfect Vinaigrettes is not at all overwhelming in fact it is a fairly small book. I found that the recipes were very easy to follow, and the accompanying photography excellent.
There are many things that I like about this book, but what I liked best is the different stages it goes through in explaining to the reader how to prepare a truly great vinaigrette. In her introduction Dannenberg not only provides some of the philosophy behind making vinaigrettes, but also reassures the reader that "something as simple as mixing oil, vinegar, and seasonings is often very difficult even for the best of cooks." Even though a vinaigrette has the potential for disaster, Dannenberg ensures you that all you need to know to create a perfect vinaigrette is elementary, the quality of your ingredients and the proportion.
Putting aside the philosophy of vinaigrettes, Dannenberg then goes into great detail describing the different components that make up a perfect vinaigrette. I found this to be an excellent section of the book, and aptly titled, "The Vinaigrette Pantry". It is here that the reader will find such excellent information as to what purpose a particular ingredient serves, and what recommended brands to use. An especially nice touch was the addition of an appendix (near the back of the book) of quality food purveyors where the reader can obtain the recommended brands.
The rest of the book is devoted primarily to the preparation and use of various types of vinaigrettes. Beginning with the most basic vinaigrettes, Dannenberg helps the readers build a solid base that later will allow them to progresses towards the more advanced vinaigrettes with relative ease. With over sixty excellent vinaigrette recipes through the book (many of the recipes are from top chefs from around the country) the book is an excellent resource for new vinaigrette ideas. Even if you don't feel very comfortable with the more advanced vinaigrettes, the beginning vinaigrettes will give you a good base of simple vinaigrettes that you can try different variations with, and still achieve a great vinaigrette.
Perfect Vinaigrettes is an excellent book and offers a refreshing look at vinaigrettes, salads, and their preparation. If you are tired of the store bought dressings I highly recommend Linda Dannenberg's Perfect Vinaigrettes.
Interview with Linda Dannenberg I was very pleased when I was given the opportunity to speak with Linda Dannenberg, author of Perfect Vinaigrettes Appetizers to Desserts. In this interview she was kind enough to share with me some of her reasons for writing the book, some tips for the beginner, and her favorite vinaigrette from the book.
CT:What prompted you to write Perfect Vinaigrettes?
LD: There were a couple of things. One was that I eat in a lot of restaurants for work and for pleasure, and one of the things that I always noticed was the salads and the vinaigrettes. What I noticed about them was in general how good they were and how such a simple thing can stay in your memory. Little bistros in Paris, bigger restaurants in different parts of the states, a lot of them had very distinctive vinaigrettes that I remembered or asked the chefs about. The other side of that coin was going to dinner parties with friends who love to cook, and just being amazed at the terrible vinaigrettes that they prepared. It was amazing how such a simple thing could go so wrong. It was obvious that they just didn't understand vinaigrettes, and they weren't comfortable with them. There were a lot of people after I did my French cookbooks that asked me if I could give them a good vinaigrette. So it was really a combination of these different impressions that motivated me to write this book. Also I cook a lot and I always make salads and I have always loved making different types of vinaigrettes. Having had those experiences I thought that there were few salad books out, but nothing that really focused on the vinaigrette as a sauce or a dressing.
CT:I really enjoyed your comment about how something as simple as a vinaigrette can easily turn into a disaster.
LD: Yes, even when you have the best ingredients to create a good vinaigrette there are two important things', the quality of the ingredients and the proportion that you use. Even if you have the top of the line vinegars, mustards, and oils you can still come out with a terrible vinaigrette. Especially if you don't understand how the proportions should work.
CT:What were your more significant influences when writing the book?
LD: There were several. In doing my bistro book, which was my first cookbook, it was the first time I really focused on chefs making vinaigrettes. There was one wonderful recipe from a bistro called Chez George that was really simple. It was an interesting mix of greens that had the leaves of celery, and I think it also had fresh herbs. It was a wonderful salad. There was also another experience in a restaurant where the chef made a vinaigrette without olive oil, but instead with peanut oil. This really surprised me because I was under the impression that most chefs just automatically use great olive oil. I think also just seeing how the chefs whisked the dressing or stirred it with a fork to emulsify it, and how simple and almost magical the creation of the vinaigrette was.
CT:What was you biggest challenge in writing the book?
LD: I suppose to eat more salads. I was making vinaigrettes all of the time, so sometimes I would have four salads at once at dinner. My son is not a big salad eater yet! My husband on the other hand was great. He would have these three or four salads at a time. Sometimes I would have to make some of the salads four or five times so it was always a question of what to do with all of this wonderful fresh vinaigrette. This really was the biggest challenge I had. When I did a book on tarts at least I could give them away or have people over for dessert, but it's a little harder to do that with vinaigrettes.
CT:What advice would you give to the person who is a little intimidated by your recipes?
LD: I would just start at the beginning. Really you could have quite a repertoire learning only three or four or even two vinaigrettes. They are very very simple, and the proportions are there. I suggest that they buy a good small whisk, and good ingredients. If they have these two components then they can't go wrong. I think if you have the ingredients right and the proportions right it won't be a problem. One of the purest vinaigrettes is the first one in the book, and a slight variation of that is the classic French vinaigrette. Just those two vinaigrettes will take you a long way because you can substitute walnut oil for olive oil, you can substitute lemon juice for the vinegar, and so on. Just within those two recipes there are quite a lot of variations you can make.
CT:Of the many vinaigrettes in your book which is your favorite?
LD: It would have to be one of the first vinaigrettes in the book the Parsley-shallot vinaigrette. This is a long time favorite of mine, and it is a very simple vinaigrette that is so flavorful.
Perfect Vinaigrettes: Appetizers to Desserts
By: Harry N. Abrams
|Dewey Decimal Number||641.814|
|Label||Harry N. Abrams|
|Manufacturer||Harry N. Abrams|
|Number Of Items||1|
|Number Of Pages||112|
|Product Type Name||ABIS_BOOK|
|Publisher||Harry N. Abrams|
|Studio||Harry N. Abrams|
|Title||Perfect Vinaigrettes: Appetizers to Desserts|