Balsamic Feta and Walnut Vinaigrette

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas! Amazingly, Scott and I made it home to our parents’ for Christmas just in time to miss the “worst winter storm in ten years” after whirlwind trips all across the country for residency interviews. As an example of how “whirlwind” these trips have been, the three days before coming home for Christmas consisted of a 36 hour trip (of which 18 were driving) to Nashville, Tennessee to interview at Vanderbilt, getting home at 2:00AM Tuesday morning, working the morning and leaving work early to avoid the storm on our six hour drive to our parents. We were at my parents’ house for three whole days (the longest we had stayed anywhere in awhile) and we were only there that long because the storm snowed us in and we couldn’t make it to Scott’s parents! Despite all this craziness, we’ve had a joyful Christmas with our family celebrating the day the Word became flesh and dwelt among us to show us the way, declare the truth, and give us life.

My little bother during the championship round of our family ping pong tournament in our newly finished basement. He lost to Scott over three very close games and received second place.

What I’m here to tell you about though is a dressing for a holiday salad, or just any old salad that you want to taste really good! The creation of this dressing came out of necessity. I was in charge of the food for a women’s Christmas event for our church and women were signing up to make all of the recipes I had picked out; all of them except the bruschetta. For some reason no one signed up to make any bruschetta. I felt that we needed it though; it was a nice contrast from the other savory items. Thus, I resolved to make it myself, 200+ servings of it! (Yikes!) I sent Scott out to the grocery store with a grocery list of 140 Roma tomatoes, eight boxes of feta cheese, and three triangles of Parmesan cheese. Scott came home successful in his mission and actually managed to find some decent tomatoes considering it’s December!

I set to work immediately seasoning and roasting the tomatoes in batches, imagining I was Robert Irvine on Dinner: Impossible, pumping myself up as I roasted, peeled, and chopped batch after batch of tomatoes. Finally, at 11:00pm I finished. However, I had grossly overestimated the amount of feta I needed and had five 8oz boxes left!

In an effort to begin to use up all this feta, Scott suggested that I bring a salad with pear and feta to our friends’ Christmas party. I knew the dressing that would go perfect with the salad was a bottle of Balsamic Walnut and Blue Cheese Vinaigrette that we had gotten in an Amish town. However, there was only about one teaspoon of dressing left in the bottle. Being my stubborn self and not willing to compromise, I decided to try to recreate this dressing myself except with feta instead of blue cheese. I started by measuring a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil into a blender. I added another tablespoon of canola oil because I thought that if I added another tablespoon of olive oil it might get too heavy and olive oil-y tasting. A spoonful of chopped, toasted walnuts was added to the blender along with a spoonful of feta, and the mixture was pulsed until the dressing was smooth and almost creamy looking (thanks to the feta). Hopeful, I tasted it, only to purse my lips together in a very sour looking face, “Hello vinegar!” was my first thought. To fix this, I added a little more of every other ingredient, besides the vinegar, and a solid spoonful of sugar. With these additions, a taste test by Scott, and a few more tweaks, I was very satisfied with the dressing and rather surprised and pleased with myself! I tossed romaine lettuce with the dressing, and topped the salad with more feta and toasted walnuts, and slices of juicy d’Anjou pears. The salad proved to be a big hit at the party, with many people asking for the dressing recipe, which, to our dismay, I had no idea what it was since I didn’t bother to measure or keep track of the amounts I was adding. Now however, I’ve gone back and recreated it, taking notes and paying close attention to the amounts of my additions.

Balsamic Feta and Walnut Viniagrette

Makes 2 meal-size servings or four side servings

1 Tbsp. good quality balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. canola oil (or vegetable oil)

2 Tbsp. crumbled feta

1 ½ Tbsp. toasted walnuts, chopped

1 tsp. sugar

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until dressing has a creamy look to it and no lumps of feta or walnut remain. Taste and, if needed, add more of desired ingredient.