I have a confession to make: I ate lunch at Corner Bakery yesterday. It's near my office, it's usually reasonably quick, and I think they put heroin in their iced tea, because I'm completely addicted to it. All the prepared foods taste like Sysco, of course, and half of the salads you could put in a combination are loaded with mayonnaise. I've found, however, that their Greek salad is surprisingly tasty, with better-than-usual quality tomatoes, crisp lettuce and cucumbers that don't taste wooden.
The problem, sadly, is their salad dressing. The salad is normally served drenched in white balsamic vinaigrette. 99-plus percent of the balsamic vinegar in this country is red wine vinegar with caramel color and sugar added, which bears about as much resemblance to the real Modenese product as Boone's Farm Peach "wine" does to Champagne.
White balsamic vinegar doesn't even pretend to be real; it's essentially sweetened white wine vinegar. The portion served over the Greek salad is 16 grams of sugar. "Cloying" doesn't begin to describe the taste; it's distractingly sweet. Who wants all that corn-syrupy gunk drowning the good vegetables, when there's an easy alternative?
Yes, gentle readers, I make my own dressing right there at the condiment station at Corner Bakery. It takes just a minute or two and tastes so much better that I simply order my salads dry. I often end up having to do an impromptu demonstration and tasting for people looking for lemons for their iced tea. The dressing is so flavorful that you can get away with using just half the cup, which is much better for your waistline.
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1 condiment cup with lid (2 fl. oz.)
1 packet Grey Poupon mustard
3 lemon slices
Olive oil, salt and pepper
1. Put half the packet of mustard in the cup, then add salt and plenty of pepper.
2. Squeeze the lemons into the cup, place the lid on, and shake vigorously for thirty seconds.
3. Open the lid, fill the cup to the inside line with olive oil, re-lid and shake vigorously for another thirty to sixty seconds.
4. Pour over your salad, tossing lightly with two forks.
Occasionally the condiment station will have red wine vinegar instead of
sugar syrup posing as vinegar balsamic; if this is the case, you can substitute all or part of the lemon juice with vinegar for a sharper bite.
Greeks, incidentally, wouldn't bother with any of this nonsense; they would squeeze the lemon over the salad, drizzle olive oil, and salt and pepper directly. I just think the French touch of the mustard helps the pile of lettuce along, and provides a nice tang when you use the "focaccia" bread (don't get me started) to sop it up.