It Sounds Weird, but Add a Little Vanilla to Your Vinaigrette

It Sounds Weird, but Add a Little Vanilla to Your Vinaigrette
Photo: Elena Veselova, Shutterstock

As a pale, skin-cancer prone communist with a penchant for arguing about labour issues in bars, there is not a whole lot I miss about living in Florida. I do not miss the beaches. I do not miss the sun. I do not miss the bugs. I do, however, miss Bern’s Steakhouse, an opulent, decidedly old school establishment decorated like a French bordello.

Their steaks are good (obviously), their wine collection is more than impressive, their menu is never-changing. Desserts are served in a separate room upstairs (with a dedicated piano man), and tours of the kitchen and wine cellar are offered after dinner. I love many things about Bern’s, but one of my favourite things is a dang salad dressing. Their macadamia vanilla bean vinaigrette is one of the best vinaigrettes that has ever touched my tongue, and I long for it.

I have not found a dupe for this exact dressing, but I have started adding a little vanilla extract to my own vinaigrettes. Vanilla is a flavour pretty firmly associated with dessert, but it’s really the flavour of indulgence. A little vanilla softens acidity, accentuates sweetness, and just makes things taste better. Vanilla-tinged dressings work best with salads that feature ingredients with naturally occurring sweetness — think fruit or roasted vegetables — super salty ingredients, or a really aggressive cheese.

How much vanilla you add depends on the ratios of your recipes, so start with a little (like 1/4 teaspoon) and scale up if you need to. If you need a basic vinaigrette recipe, start with this template. Ingredients-wise, I would recommend getting your acid from a nice fruit vinegar (like raspberry) and going with a nutty oil, like hazelnut or pistachio. I think I’m going to track down some macadamia nut oil for this express purpose, as an homage to my beloved Bern’s.

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