Cookery Maven Blog

A Sassy Roasted Vegetable Salad

Two really great things happened to me in the past month— my homemade red wine vinegar is finally healthy and Kathy introduced me to roasted vegetables in a green salad. I'm not sure what event was more impactful but when they came together on my plate, I had joy in my little heart. My path to homemade vinegar was full of pot-holes, really big and unmarked pot-holes. I bought my vinegar mother, put her in the crock with decent red wine, put the cap on the crock and went on my merry way for 2 months. Big mistake. I opened the crock and it smelled exactly like nail polish remover, not exactly what I was shooting for.

I searched the internet but it seemed nearly everyone had great success in their vinegar production and I couldn't find much information on what to do when the vinegar smells horrid (except throw it out and start over). I was not about to throw it out, I had two months invested and it was too cold to have another mother shipped— evidently, they need to stay warm in order to turn wine into vinegar. So, I decided to do it my way and disregard the instructions. I added some water, sugar, more wine and stirred it vigorously every third day. I waited and waited and stirred and stirred. Finally, six weeks later, I took a whiff and the most beautiful acidic aroma wafted into my nose. Homemade red wine vinegar is everything I hoped it would be— lightly acidic and fresh tasting, and not a hint of acetone to be found.

Back to the roasted vegetable revelation. I knew a salad with roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, fennel and onion combined with Sassy Nanny goat cheese and my red wine vinaigrette would be just the ticket for a spring dinner. Soon, I will have lots of fresh vegetables from the garden to dress up in a salad but for now, roasted vegetables were a nod to the passing of winter.

Sassy Roasted Vegetable Salad

Red Wine Vinaigrette
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 red onion, peeled and sliced
1 fennel bulb, fronds removed and sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 pear, sliced
4 cups spring mix or spinach (or a combination of both)
1/2 cup Sassy Nanny Lake Effect goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place all the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl and whisk until fully incorporated and slightly thickened.

Place vegetables, herbs, salt, pepper and olive oil in a sheet tray lined with parchment. Roast for 30 minutes or until softened and caramelized. Set aside to cool. Assemble the salad with roasted vegetables and pear slices and then toss with the vinaigrette. Place the goat cheese on top of the salad, taste for salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Another Use For Red Wine

Not that I really needed another use for red wine, my first choice (in a nice big glass) was working out brilliantly. What I really needed was good red wine vinegar. When we lived in Minneapolis, Bill's Imported Foods was my spot for all sorts of kitchen supplies— olive oil, French feta, Moroccan olives, cornichons and wine vinegar. Since Bill's is about 200 miles away and my trips back to Minneapolis are infrequent, I needed another plan of attack.

I googled 'homemade red wine vinegar', bought a mother (from here), bought a crock (from here), grabbed a nice bottle of wine and set out on my latest culinary journey. It's going to be a long one, at least 10 weeks according to Paula Wolfert, but I have a feeling it's going to be well worth the wait. Trust me, you'll be the first to know if I made the red wine vinegar of my dreams or something that smells like 'furniture polish'. Lord knows I have a steady supply of red wine to keep my mother happy and well fed. If it works out, I will have fresh wine vinegar forever— how cool is that??

Making Red Wine Vinegar By Paula Wolfert (From Food and Wine Magazine October 2006)

Buy a 1-gallon earthenware crock with a top-quality wood or plastic spigot. Add water to the crock to check for leaks; drain the crock.

Buy an 8-ounce bottle of commercial mother from a wine and beer-making supply shop (or get it from a friend).

Add 2 cups of good red wine and 1 cup of filtered water to the crock (or enough to at least cover the spigot), then add the mother. Cover the crock with a double layer of cheesecloth and fasten with a rubber band (or just use the lid with the hole in it).

Set the crock in a warm (70° to 90°), dark spot and let stand for 1 1/2 weeks.

Add red wine to the crock in three 2 1/2-cup installments over the next 1 1/2 weeks; the crock should then be two-thirds full. Once a thin veil has formed on the surface, add the wine through the tube of the bulb baster tucked under the edge of the veil. Let the crock stand for a total of 10 weeks. Check periodically: If your vinegar ever begins to smell like furniture polish, discard it, wash the crock and start over.

Bottle the vinegar when it smells sharp and crisp: Strain it into sterile bottles through a plastic funnel lines with a paper coffee filter. (If you plan to start the process over, leave 2 cups vinegar in the crock and just add wine and water.) The vinegar will mellow in the bottle and improve with age, but if you plan to keep it more than 4 months, pasteurize it: Heat the vinegar to 155° in a stainless steel saucepan and hold it there for 30 minutes. Store the vinegar in sterilized, well-sealed bottles in a cool, dry place. Use homemade vinegar for dressings and sauces and as a seasoning; never use it for pickling