Pia's Restaurant has the most wonderful champagne vinaigrette. I tasted it for the first time earlier this year when we dined at her New Bern restaurant, which, sadly, has closed. (In its place is Jennifer and Sami's Bella Cucina, a wonderful Italian restaurant.) So in love with this vinaigrette was I that I tested and tested to get the recipe down (Pia wouldn't give it to me). We dined at her Washington restaurant recently, where I got to taste the vinaigrette again, this time made by her Washington chef. His was sweeter, more emulsified and had less parsley. My version of champagne vinaigrette is closer to Pia's New Bern version -- somewhat emulsified with lots of parsley and just slightly sweet.
I love that there's lots of parsley in this dressing. (Just in case you don't know, parsley is very good for you. It contains vitamins A and C, iron, manganese, calcium, potassium and flavonoids that act as antioxidants. Raw parsley is also a blood cleanser and helps to keep your blood from being sticky.) Usually, I grow my own parsley, but this year's crop was disappointing, so I've been buying it. My preference is for Italian flat-leaf parsley, because it has more flavor than the curly kind. You can buy it at Wal-Mart for under a dollar a bunch, but I usually buy Harris Teeter's organic parsley.
I experimented with different vinegars, paying as much as $10.00 a bottle for O citrus flavored champagne vinegar. I even bought O lemon-infused olive oil. The O vinegar and oil are both excellent, but I had good results with HT Trader's white wine vinegar and Colavita extra-virgin olive oil, which are both more reasonably priced. I'm sure plain champagne vinegar, which goes on sale periodically in Harris Teeter, will also make a great-tasting vinaigrette.
*If you want to take this dressing to the next level, steep a crushed garlic clove and a thin slice of lemon rind (without the white pith) in 1/4 cup of good olive oil (like Colavita extra-virgin) for a day or two in the fridge; strain, discarding solids, and use some in this dressing.
If someone were to tell me a year ago that I would be almost addicted to a salad dressing that contained more parsley than oil and vinegar, I would't have believed them. But it's true. The flavor of this vinaigrette is so outstanding that I can't wait to eat my next salad. Yes, it's a lot of chopping, but my hubby is keeping the knives sharpened, and I'm getting pretty good at cutting parsley into tiny pieces.
Judy's Champagne Vinaigrette
Rating: 10 out of 10
1 Tbsp. champagne or good-quality white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. coarse sea salt (or coarse kosher salt)
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. honey
2-1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (I use Colavita)*
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh Italian-leaf parsley, preferably organic
In small bowl, whisk vinegar, salt, mustard and honey till smooth. Slowly add the oil, continuing to whisk till emulsified. Stir in parsley. Pour dressing over salad, toss to combine. Yield: enough for one salad.
Alternate method: Combine chopped parsley with salad ingredients. Pour dressing over, toss to combine.