This post marks Day 9 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.
Around this time of year, waaay back in the early '80s, actor Paul Newman and author A. E. Hotchner, were up to some culinary mischief in Newman's basement...
For several years, Paul Newman and his long-time friend, author A.E. Hotchner, were in the habit of giving bottles of their homemade salad dressing to friends as holiday gifts. They would mix up a batch in Newman's basement and hand out old wine bottles filled with the dressing while Christmas caroling in their Westport, Connecticut, neighborhood. The response was favorable, and their 'limited edition' bottled dressing became a sought-after item in neighborhood gourmet shops.
Newman and Hotchner reasoned they might attempt to market their dressing. They were told to expect to spend $400,000 on test marketing, but instead they simply invited a group of friends to choose from among a few salad dressing samples, and then selected the favorite. The two men each contributed $40,000, and a private manufacturer agreed to bottle the dressing. Thus, in 1982, Newman's Own, Inc., created its first product: Olive Oil & Vinegar Salad Dressing. As a joke, Newman put a likeness of his own face on the label...
Twenty-five years later, the Newman's Own company has created dozens of products and earned more than $200 million for thousands of charities.
Keep in mind — this multi-million-dollar company all started thanks to some random holiday cheer put forth by a couple of Christmas carolers armed with bottles of their homemade salad dressing. Granted, those carolers were already millionaires with good connections... but you see what I'm getting at here.
A couple of years after Paul Newman started pimping his dressing for charity, my dad began whipping up bottles of homemade oil and vinegar vinaigrette as gifts. They were complete knock-offs, labeled "ERICK'S OWN" with a photocopied caricature that my uncle drew. (See above for a scan of one of the original labels.)
Lo and behold, the dressing was mighty popular among the friends and neighbors. It seems that some formulas are simply recipes for success.
Why not produce some salad condiments of your own? It doesn't take much to get going... a few bottles, a little vinegar, a little olive oil. Custom labels seem to help quite a lot. Paul Newman might claim to have launched Newman's Own as a joke, but he certainly knew what he was doing when he slapped his grinning mug across everything from steak sauce to lemonade.
Your Own Vinaigrette
The ingredients below represent a very basic vinaigrette, which you can doll up as you see fit. My dad always used thin-sliced garlic cloves and dried herbs in his, and they tended to clog the shaker top, but I think the flavor was worth it.
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup olive oil
1. Combine vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a bowl or a blender. Whisk or blend well.
2. Add oil to the mixture in a slow stream as you whisk or blend.
You can store a vinaigrette in the refrigerator, but the oil will congeal. Simply remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to service to bring to room temperature. Shake well before using.