Yesterday morning we packed up and headed down to my grandmother’s house in Portland. It’s Grandma June’s birthday on Tuesday, you see, her 80th, and my father has been scheming for weeks. She knew her sons were coming, but admitted to pouting over the lack of a proper birthday party. I think her pout faded a bit each hour as 16 of us surprised her by showing up throughout the day, a few at a time.
We brought down some food, of course. I made salmon and corn cakes to pass around when everyone arrived, Michaela’s potato salad, a big green salad with a winner of a basil vinaigrette, and a vegetable salad.
My mom picked up a beautiful chocolate cake from a bakery there and wrote “Happy June in July” on it. We ate all but the part that said “June,” forking in moist, dense mouthfuls between sips of champagne and Hansen’s soda, stealing unclaimed globs of ganache off the serving plate after we’d finished our own pieces.
I’m pretty sure I was the only one who noticed the ganache beginning to separate in the heat. But as we all chatted and wilted, it struck me how completely unimportant the food was. Sure, the meat was tasty. But sitting and smiling, watching June open gifts and seeing how young and sprite and able she seemed compared to some of her friends, that was important. Meeting relatives for the first time as an adult, that was wonderful. Savoring her surprise and the way the champagne flushed her cherubic cheeks pink, that was delicious.
I forgot to take a photo of the vinaigrette, but here’s the salad, all naked:
Recipe for Sweet Basil Vinaigrette
Recipe 203 of 365
This is just the right amount of vinaigrette for a 5-ounce package of greens, topped with four thinly sliced apricots, 4 ounces of crumbled goat cheese, and a few big handfuls of Balsamic-Cinnamon Pecans. Serves 15, as part of a picnic spread.
Because this dressing hits the tongue with a bit of sweetness, tartness, and spice, it really might be the vinaigrette for everyone. Drizzle it over a salad with the same mixture of flavors – sweet fruit, spicy nuts, and tart greens such as spinach or arugula, plus cheese, if you’d like.
It could also be made by hand, obviously – just be sure to chop the shallots and basil quite finely.
TIME: 10 minutes
MAKES: 1 generous cup
1 small shallot, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup (packed) basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Puree the shallots, mustard, vinegar, honey, basil, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor until very finely chopped. With the machine running, add the oil in a slow steady stream, and whirl until completely incorporated. Refrigerate in a sealed container up to 3 days.