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Salad and Vinaigrettes

Red Onion Salad with Blackberry Ginger Vinaigrette Salad

4 bunches of arugula 
 (or, any other peppery green, such as watercress or mâche)
2 large avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and sliced crosswise
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
6 to 8 small blood oranges, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 to 4 navel oranges, peeled and cut into small pieces
Seeds from two pomegranates (optional
3 tablespoons Sicilian Lemon Balsamic
1/2 cup Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup medium extra-virgin olive oil (Arbequina, Koroneiki, Nocellara del Belice, Picholine, or Ultra Picual)
Salt and pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to rub on baking sheet
2 1/2 cups country Italian bread, with crust, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Whisk together balsamic vinegars, parsley and mustard in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. (Dressing can be made one day ahead; chill. Bring to room temperature and whisk again before using.). Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rub baking sheet with a small amount of oil using a paper towel.
 Toss bread with the olive oil in a medium bowl, adding more oil to thoroughly coat the bread, if necessary. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Toss with cheese, pressing cheese to adhere to bread.
Scatter croutons on baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on sheet. (Croutons can be made 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.) Divide arugula among 8 plates. Top with avocado, onion, oranges, pomegranate seeds, dressing and croutons. Serve remaining dressing on the side.

Blender Basil Dressing

Here is a recipe for a wonderful and easy-to-make basil dressing in your blender.

2 tablespoons Pinot Noir Wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Traditional Balsamic Vinegar
4 to 5 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup medium/bold extra virgin olive oil*
(Nevadillo Blanco, Picual or Favolosa)
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Add the vinegars, basil, sugar, garlic, oils, salt, and pepper in a blender. Pulse the mixture, or mix it in short bursts so that the ingredients combine thoroughly and the basil do not get chopped too fine. A combination of butter lettuce, freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, marinated mushrooms, juicy red ripe tomatoes, and even some ripe wedges of avocado make for a delightfully superb salad. This recipe yields about a cup dressing.
*May substitute basil olive oil and decrease the basil

Basic Wine Vinaigrette Recipe

4 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed (or roasted)
About 1 teaspoon salt
About 2/3 to 1 cup Pinot Noir, Sherry Reserva or Champagne Vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
About ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
About 2 cups bold extra virgin olive oil (Cerasuola, Leccino, Mission, Nevadillo Blanco, Picual)

One of the great things about vinaigrette is that it is so versatile and flexible. All you need is a reliable basic vinaigrette recipe and all it's other variations stem from just this. Below is a basic recipe for vinaigrette, which you can adjust and alter to create several variations.
To a small or medium sized bowl add garlic, vinegar, sugar, and black pepper and whisk it together. Whisk in the oil and adjust the seasoning, adding more vinegar, salt and pepper if needed.
Variations: Whisk in some shredded Parmesan cheese and/ or sun-dried tomatoes, minced herbs, cumin, fresh ginger, a squeeze of fresh lime juice, or even soy sauce.

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