Thursday, May 28, 2009

Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

You know those things people say. Like "nice weather we're having" when you see them on the street. Coming up on the adoption, people would rather offhandedly say "Your life is going to change completely!" This, I must say, was most disconcerting. What can you say except, "oh yes, change completely..." while wondering what is in store?

As the time got closer and closer, and the change completely banter reached a feverish pitch among our acquaintances and loved ones, I began to have doubts in myself. More than once, I had been in a situation where I had tried, really tried to completely change and it didn't work. Like that time I tried to get my house organized. Or even worse, maybe I would be forced to let go of some really important part of me, bid the old Lucy Vanel adieu, leaving her at the shore of a long lost deserted island, and usher in the changed completely Lucy Vanel, now a mother. Would the former me exist only as a kind of supernatural apparition? I feared the worst.

Baby Ian came home. I watched and waited anxiously for Mr Hyde to kick in. When would metamorphosis into a tired old bottle-washing diaper-scrubbing wench take place? Then I realized that we had made most of this famous life change over the course of years, long before I held Ian in my arms. I made a space inside, a very special space. Yes, falling in love with this baby has been exhilarating and a little scary (because you know, you worry about the little one), but nothing I can't handle. Yes, the bottles and the changings take place, but they're kind of nice. The schedule has been pretty easy to adjust to.

I think the biggest change so far has been - that which was empty is now full. I had carved it all out, you know. That empty space. A bulldozing machine came in years ago and dug out a nice deep hole (now that, my friends was life changing), and like other parts of me, I tended to it. At first it was gaping and empty. Then one day I took a good look around, dusted myself off, and we decided to decorate it like a nursery. On the practical side, we tended to the dossier over the years. We reserved this place for someone, and now he is here.

Maybe people come forth with these warnings just to get that one last chance to scare the bejeesums out of new parents. A kind of good natured hazing. Having a little chuckle, you know? It has been a relief to note that I am still the same old me, 100%. The house is a little fuller, the heart is pumping gladly with essence of maman caused by some enzyme created by contact with a baby's smile, MY baby's smile, my husband is proving to pull his weight, and here I am. I can count and see and look around at all the things that remain the same, and be thankful for all of that too.

Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

My walnut oil still comes from a charming old bee keeper on the quai who sells it in individual Perrier bottles, pressed from his own nut production. Walnut oil is one of my favorites of all to use in the kitchen. Nutty and delicate, fragrant and fragile, it has to be used quickly. Once I get mine, I use it up, lickety split. It took me a while to find this particular oil from this particular man, the kind that you taste and a little spot in your mind brightens and says - Oh THIS is walnut oil! In that way, it changes your life. I suggest you make a little place in your heart for walnut oil, then find just the right one where you live.

I use this precious oil fresh in pancakes, any and all kinds of baked breads, wherever you might use a nice green olive oil. In pizza dough, drizzled on pasta, on grated carrots, on a salad graced with blue cheese. It can be used in place of sesame oil in your favorite sauce for Beijing cold noodles, and on the season's very last sigh of endives chopped raw with cracked walnuts. Walnut oil is good even just for dipping fresh bread with some sea salt. A vinaigrette seasoned with virgin walnut oil is one of the very best ways to heighten the delicate flavors of spring and add a touch of something new.

- For one salad for two. Double or triple this recipe as necessary for larger salads.

1 tablespoon of fresh first pressed walnut oil.
2 tablespoons of neutral oil (whatever is your favorite, but make sure it is neutral so it won't compete with the fresh nutty taste of the walnut oil)
1/2 teaspoon strong prepared dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon Banyuls vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pepper or 6 salt-brined green peppercorns

Mix the oils together in a small bowl, and whisk in the salt and Dijon mustard. Add the vinegar, and then the pepper, whisking to make a salad dressing that slightly thickens. If you're using the green peppercorns, mince them small or put them whole in the dressing and then give it a quick pulse with the stick blender. You can also just add them whole if you like pepper. I enjoyed this sauce today on a spinach salad, sprinkled with a few toasted sesame seeds. If you only use a little, know that it keeps for a few days in a tighly fitted jar in the refrigerator.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made a walnut vinaigrette the other day using entirely walnut oil and a splash of lemon juice - otherwise it was very much the same as yours. [Maybe a little fresh chopped tarragon?] In any event, it was very good but definitely will use a bit of neutral oil to calm the in-your-face-ness of the walnut oil itself.



3:39 PM, May 28, 2009  
Blogger racheld said...

In the Mama Lexicon, "Change Completely" translates to "Improve Exponentially."

I'm enjoying your Joy.


4:10 PM, May 28, 2009  
Blogger peevish said...

It sounds like you all have smooth sailing ahead. Congrats!

5:37 PM, May 28, 2009  
Blogger Sarah said...

When my husband and I were expecting twins, parents of singletons would say, "It's going to be so hard; you'll never sleep; how will you do it; blah, warning, blah."
Parents of multiples always smiled and said, "There's nothing like it. Sure it's hard work, but it's the most fun you'll ever have."
Enjoy your little dumpling.

5:58 PM, May 28, 2009  
Blogger Anita (Married... with dinner) said...

I'm so happy at your obvious pleasure in motherhood. It's gentle and quiet and utterly beguiling. :)

7:08 PM, May 28, 2009  
Anonymous dillon said...

While I was "organising my house" I forgot I had some new season walnuts in the blender. They had turned into an oily paste. I squeezed out the oil and mixed it with butter. Lovely spread on warm bread.

Must be time to make your walnut liquor, huh?

2:48 AM, May 29, 2009  
Anonymous Dillon said...

Babies are magical time consumers, but you and Loic remember to find the time to spoil each other....(us blokes can be very sensitive to the changes)

All the best


2:56 AM, May 29, 2009  
Blogger TryingHard said...

Congratulations! What a handsome son. You will love being the mother of a boy. You are now the Queen of the home. He is handsome and precious!

4:00 PM, May 29, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has Ian been to the market yet?

4:22 PM, May 29, 2009  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Thanks for the great comments, my friends! Dear Heather, In some circumstances walnut oil can be really overwhelming and that's why I cut it in the vinaigrette recipe. Also the flavor is bold enough to stand up to many kinds of vinegars - experiment!

Hey Rachel, thanks for that! I will keep it in mind.

Thanks Peevish - not sure if I spoke too soon - he was all tears today!

Sarah, I am so glad you finally did have some supportive friends who really put hings in perspective for you.

Thanks Anita.

Dillon, thank you for your kind commentary on the culinary asepct and also pointing out to me something so very important about maintaining my relationship with my husband.

Linda, Interesting that you note that. I thought I was the queen before, now I am the supreme queen. Hm. Like that.

Anon - his first day at the market will be tomorrow.

10:09 PM, May 29, 2009  
Blogger Claudia said...

I use Walnut Oil and never to think to use it in my vinaigrettes. Will try it. I can be so dense! Congrats on Baby Ian. You will have such love-ly times!

2:15 AM, June 01, 2009  
Blogger Chip Ahoy said...

Just now saw baby Ian. I look at baby Ian and think, "You've got to be the luckiest kid on Earth to have landed in Lucy's arms." And you're lucky too, of course. Congratulations to you all three, Loic, Lucy, and Ian.

Oh, yes, walnut oil. I'll look for it at Farmers' Market with a new appreciation.

6:30 AM, June 01, 2009  
Blogger ~~louise~~ said...

Oh Lucy, baby Ian is absolutely precious. Congratulations to all of you! The only thing more rewarding than being a mother is being a grandmother. Don't let anyone tell you different!

I've curiously thinking about the uses of walnut oil since recently spying it at the market. I see you used fresh pressed. What if it's unavailable. Is there a second best to use?

3:21 PM, June 02, 2009  
Anonymous Jann said...

Little Ian is beautiful~how fortunate for him to be part of your family now. My son was also adopted . He was three days old when he arrived in our home~as soon as he was in our arms, that was it! We tried for 8 years to have little" kidders"~so thankful to this day he could be with us. That was 28 years ago! Enjoy each day-they slip by so silently!
I need to try that dressing-looks delicious!

3:21 AM, June 03, 2009  

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