I’ve been baking out of control the last few days–clearly I am on holiday, as my kitchen fills up with floury, sugary concoctions. But Christmas dinner is more than just bread and cookies, as much as I’d like to pretend otherwise. I took a break from the flour yesterday to throw together this charming salad.

This salad looks like any other– pretty because of its colourful ingredients, but nothing out of the ordinary. The leaves are bright green, the mandarins glow orange, the red onion offers some purple, the goat cheese matte white, and the whole thing glistens thanks to the dressing. A salad is always welcome on my dinner plate, but especially at a holiday meal, where things tend to get a bit heavy. This one is secretly special, though, thanks to its fantastic dressing, scented with Earl Grey tea to give a hint of bergamot and herbs. Honestly, it looks like any other salad, but it’s not. In fact, after I photographed it, I wolfed it down in the space of a minute and had to go back for another, bigger, bowl immediately. It’s that good. As far as the ingredients go, I used boxed mixed greens, some thinly-sliced red onion , nodded to the citrus notes of the bergamot with supremed fresh mandarins (which offered a welcome mellow sweetness), and finished the whole thing off with some salty goat’s milk feta (I think that blue cheese would also be fantastic with the bergamot dressing).

It’s a great holiday meal salad, something pretty but familiar, with just enough added “special” to make it right at home among all those carefully-laboured-over dishes you’re serving.

BERGAMOT DRESSING
Adapted from an ATCO “Blue Flame Kitchen” holiday cookbook. This recipe makes about 1 cup of dressing, which should last 4-5 days in the fridge.

1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 Earl Grey tea bags
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried Herbes de Provence, crushed
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
a few grinds of pepper
2/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil

1. Bring vinegar to a boil over low heat. Remove the vinegar from the heat as soon as it begins to boil and pour it over the tea bags in a smallĀ  bowl. Cover bowl and allow tea to steep for 30 minutes. Remove the tea bags, squeezing them a little to get the last drops of vinegar out of them. Discard tea bags. (Just a thought: at this point, the vinegar could be bottled in a pretty glass bottle and given as a gift. It’s pretty fancy!)
2. For dressing, combine vinegar, mustard, Herbes de Provence, sugar, salt, and some generous grinds of pepper in a small bowl. Whisk them all together.
3. Add oil in a slow drizzle, whisking constantly to emulsify.
4. To serve, toss with mixed greens and your choice of salad ingredients (see above for some ideas).

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