Lynne Curry Thu, 26 Feb 2015 18:39:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rancher & Farmer Wisdom Thu, 26 Feb 2015 18:24:11 +0000 By far, my most favorite part of running the Lostine Tavern is talking with, learning from and purchasing foods from the array of local producers here in the Wallowas. How do we make agriculture sustainable for them?

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Patrick Thiel of Prairie Creek Farm knows the ins & outs of spuds
Patrick Thiel

By far, my most favorite part of running the Lostine Tavern is talking with, learning from and purchasing foods from the array of local producers here in the Wallowas.

I’m lucky, because I’ve known most of the them for years now. But I am only beginning to grasp their deep knowledge of their products and how it can help us make better food. A potato is not just a potato, an egg is not like another egg, and no two types of beef are the same. The natural and seasonal variations are the culinary beauty of locally produced foods.

It reminds me of when I was in Provence and a grower had giant stalks of cardoons–a vegetable related to thistle–and he told me the best way to prepare it. Similarly, in Mexico, it was talking to the chile vendors that I learned how to make enchilada sauce and mole.

So I pay attention when a rancher tells me that their Corriente beef is best cooked no more than medium rare. Or grower who informs me to wait on the parsnips until spring when they’ll be sweeter. Or that the purple majesty potato will be perfect for roasting.

There is a lot to learn from these folks. I’m listening.

We need to listen to them for other reasons, too. Because it’s not enough to celebrate farmers and ranchers. We need to find ways to support them so that sustainable agriculture is just that. Sustaining as a livelihood for those who dedicate their lives to raising good food.

I certainly don’t have solutions, but this op-ed I wrote for the Los Angeles Times, Has Farm-to-Table Helped the Actual Farmer Yet? is a summary of some thoughts I’ve had. I’m hoping it kicks off a nice, long dialog.

Go ahead, I’m listening.

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Let’s Stop & Have Tea Wed, 18 Feb 2015 02:00:58 +0000 It's been eight lightning-quick months since the Lostine Tavern opened, and I'm just finding my writing life again. So, let's share a cup.

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(Re)start wherever you are.
My chai

Last weekend at the tavern, I served dinner to a woman who told me she’s been a longtime follower of this blog.

“Gosh, I haven’t written anything in so long!” I said.

“I know,” she said. “I wish you would again.”

That small suggestion, added to my own inner voice to get back to my blog brings me here again at last. It’s been eight lightning-quick months since the Lostine Tavern opened, and I’m just finding my writing life again.

Whew! I don’t think I possibly could catch you up with all of it. In fact, that’s the daunting part that’s kept me from coming to these “pages” with episodes from the local foods lifestyle.

You know that feeling, don’t you? The card you don’t send to an old friend because you feel the need to write a long letter instead of a simple but heartfelt message. But it’s the act of reaching out that’s the important part. Not even what you say or how you say it or how long the paragraphs.

“To begin, begin,” wrote Wordsworth. We’re all too busy to catch up, so let’s just begin…again.

Hello. It’s good to be back in touch. There is a lot going on here–the routine, the unpredictable, the exciting, the inspiring.

On days like today when I’m not completely overwhelmed, when I appreciate how we are managing to open the doors regularly and feed people good, mostly local food, when I can lift my head out of my to-do lists, I’ll pause to fill you in on what’s on our plates.

In the meantime, sip on this homemade chai I’ve been enjoying on my day off. I make mine with whole pastured milk and honey from 6Ranch.

Talk soon.

Pastured Milk Chai Tea with Honey

Of course you can use any milk or a combination of milk and water (up to half and half), but whole pastured milk is the very best way to enjoy this tea. The blend of aromatics–including fennel, orange and vanilla–is my spin on the traditional chai mix.

3 cups whole pastured milk
3 2-inch long strips orange rind
6 1/4-inch coins fresh ginger
2 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
6 cardamom pods, cracked
1/8 teaspoon whole fennel seed
pinch cayenne
3 drops vanilla
4 teaspoons best quality black tea
1/4 cup honey or more to taste
candied ginger (optional)

  1. Bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan with the orange rind, ginger, cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, fennel seed, cayenne and vanilla. Cover and steep off the heat for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Strain the aromatics from the milk and return it to the pot.
  3. Heat the milk to a simmer and add the tea and honey. Stir, cover the pot and steep for 4 minutes.
  4. Strain the chai and serve yourself with a couple pieces of candied ginger. Store any extra in the fridge and reheat on the stove top or microwave.

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Pickling for a Living Tue, 25 Mar 2014 18:38:41 +0000 Just 51 days until opening the Lostine Tavern, I am about to pickle on a scale I have never before imagined.

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Surprisingly, I’m building a business on pickles.spring pickles

A month ago, I introduced you to my biggest endeavor to date, my current preoccupation, my new baby: the Lostine Tavern. Every single day, things are happening, especially now that the building is plumbed and wired. (If you’ve ever remodeled your home, you understand that every bit of infrastructure arcana is exciting. Oh, and the baby analogy serves here, too.)

While my biz partner Peter Ferre and I are choosing our light fixtures, finalizing our seating and creating a fantastic menu (go here to weigh in on deli sandwiches and more), I have a pressing need to get into the kitchen and start pickling.

No big deal, right? I mean, I’ve been a devoted pickler for years now. Using Benjamin’s Aunt Lydia’s basic formula, I start with the spring asparagus from Walla Walla and keep that brine happening beyond the beet harvest. I bring jars of spicy asparagus to potlucks, open escabeche for taco night and garnish charcuterie plates with gherkins.

Here’s the difference: I am about to pickle on a scale I have never before imagined. And, I have to produce them in time for our opening, slated for May 15. That is exactly 51 days/1224 hours away/untold 5-gallon buckets of brine from today.

Every backer of our crowdfunding project at every reward level will get an LT pickle. Of our 66 backers to date, some people will certainly want a half sour. For some a pickle is always a cucumber.

You may note, it’s March, a good four months from cucumber season. But running a restaurant is creative problem solving just like this, and it fires me up.

With every donation, another pickle. I am counting pickles, planning for pickles, looking for vegetables to pickle: carrots, beets, asparagus, onions, potatoes and imported cukes. I call my friends in my network of producers. Do you have anything I can pickle?

I am looking into the world of pickles more vast and complex than I’ve known before. Pickle as metaphor?

All of which leads me to this burning question: What’s the most unusual pickle you’ve ever had?

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Trying Paleo on for Size Thu, 06 Mar 2014 09:35:44 +0000 Last week I had lunch at Dick's Kitchen and got to experience paleo first hand.

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How do you feel about the paleo diet?
DK burger

When my cookbook on grassfed beef came out, a lot of people told me to send it to the paleo folks. I honestly did not know a lot about paleo diets, other than the fact that they were very, very popular. Which, when you are launching a book is a big heads up.

The problem with my book for paleo devotees, I knew, was that it had way too much grain in it. I adore whole grains of all kinds–bulgur, wheat berries, rice, multigrain bread–and my recipes had these ingredients scattered all over the place.

When a friend loaned me The Paleo Diet, I opened it thinking that maybe I’d give the diet a try. After turning a few pages, I knew that I simply could not, would not (in a plane, in the rain…) prepare and consume that much meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. All that bone broth and organ meats were a turn off.

[I will say that there are several paleo blogs where the food looks diverse and amazing, like nomnompaleo, and if Michelle ever wants to quit all her jobs and come be my personal chef, I will convert at once.]

I know. Weird coming from the author of a beef cookbook. But, if you know me by now, you understand that I like a little meat with a lot of salad or veggies. I’m the gal who orders the entree because and only because of the side dishes that come with it.

While in Portland last week, I had lunch at Dick’s Kitchen. I’ve known about Dick’s for a long time because all their meat comes from Carman Ranch located here in the Wallowas. At last, I would meet its founder and namesake Richard Satnick.

Having lunch with Richard was a bit like going to a museum with the curator. Instead of a narrow lens, I saw the whole menu through his concept, his principles and the health issues that motivated him to build a dining empire from dietary restrictions. There were vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian options as well as complete menus within what Richard calls the “Paleolithic paradigm.” (Gawd, I just love that.)

I’ve often resisted diets that are about what you give up rather than what you get. However, I’m lucky that I do not have any food-related allergies or sensitivities and neither do my husband or kids. But I look at the school lunch menu each week and the restaurant offerings and our American diet in general and often think, “There are way too many breads and starches for anyone here.” (Then, when you find out about foaming agents used to give these 500+ bread products more loft, it’s like pure science fiction but not.)

At Dick’s, I ate the most juicy and full-flavored grassfed burger on kale salad I’ve ever had. There was no lack, especially with the homemade ketchup. I devoured the yam “not-fries” while sipping my raspberry kombucha.

I especially appreciated that, as a mom, I could bring my kids (who were home in Joseph being fed by Dad) to Dick’s Kitchen and feel good about what they were eating no matter what they ordered. (No more guilt over root beer and hot dogs.) I loved the fact that whole groups of people–families, friends, co-workers–can gather and eat together and everyone can have exactly what they need to feel good and live better.

Now, back at home, I’m going to try to master that perfect DK hamburger seared to a crisp in a cast-iron skillet. I just happen to have a little bit of grassfed ground beef on hand.

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Meet My Tavern Wed, 26 Feb 2014 23:40:26 +0000 Hi there. I’d like you to meet the Lostine Tavern. It’s been keeping me away for the past few months. It’s surprising how occupying a filthy, old gutted building can … Read More

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Hi there. I’d like you to meet the Lostine Tavern.Lostine Tavern.2-25-14

It’s been keeping me away for the past few months. It’s surprising how occupying a filthy, old gutted building can be. Well, not that I’ve spent too much time in there in actuality. It’s freezing!

In my head, I’m there nearly all the time. You see, this May I plan to open, or I should say, re-open the Lostine Tavern. It’s a beloved old place, but really it needed an overhaul and an upgrade from floor to ceiling.

Truth be told, I haven’t even let myself think too much about the food. Perhaps that’s also why I’ve been so quiet. Buried in numbers and bottom lines and projections, my brain has not taken too much delight in food at all. Just ask my family. There’s been little whimsy at the table. As they say around here, “Just get ‘er done.”

Good news is, I’m emerging from the depths of restaurant financials to a brighter, livelier place. I can start to envision the room where people will gather and eat. I can hear the heavy hum of conversations. I can almost smell the food…

But I’m not totally there yet. Because I’m scared, you see. Having a tavern feels like the biggest thing I’ve taken on to date. It’s public and personal all at the same time.

Still, I’m excited to think out loud here at Rural Eating. To bounce ideas off of you. Try recipes. Experiment. Have fun.

Are you in?


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This is a Beet Cake Thu, 31 Oct 2013 19:42:44 +0000 A party-size cake, I've made this for the last three potlucks where it's always a hit. Who would know it's chock-full of beets?

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Roots are for dessert, too.
Beet cake

This time last year, my cousin Suzanne emailed me from Massachusetts with a beet problem. She’d gotten a bunch in her CSA box and she didn’t know what to do with them.

Naturally, I gave her my reflex recipe for beets:

“Scrub them and put them in a roasting pan, add a splash of water and seal them well with foil. Roast them at 400 degrees F for 40-45 minutes until you can pierce them with a fork. When they’re cool enough to handle, slip off their skins and cut them into wedges, slices, what have you.”

If there’s a beet in my midst, this is their fate–although I’ve been known to pickle a few, too–since this is the most versatile way to use them as a side dish with butter and salt, in a salad with feta and orange slices…

A few weeks later, she reported back that neither she nor her 4 kids liked them. I sure wish I had sent her this recipe instead.

Here you go, Suzie!

Beet Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Just like carrot cake, the veggies yield a very moist cake. The difference is the beets are pureed, so no one (i.e. children and avowed beet haters) will ever guess they’re in there! I developed this recipe for my friend Marcy who wanted a vegelicious cake for her son Evan’s birthday. (Funny, they, too, now live in Massachusetts.) Party sized, it makes 3 8-inch layers or one 11×17 sheet cake or 2 8-inch layers and 6 large cupcakes. You choose!

2 1/2 cups pureed cooked beets
6 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon baking soda

  1. Butter (or spray) and flour the baking pans, and if using 8-inch round pans or a sheet pan line them with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Beat the eggs with the beets in a mixing bowl. Combine the cocoa powder, vanilla and oil in a large measuring cup.
  3. Whisk the sugar, flour, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Add the cocoa powder mix to the flour and stir with a rubber spatula until well combined. Add the beet mixture and stir just until combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pans until the mixture is about halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake until the sides of the cake pull away from the pan and a wooden skewer slid into the cake’s center comes out clean. (Round layers will take 25-30 minutes; sheet cake 40-45 minutes; and cupcakes 18-20 minutes.)
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
3 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (14 ounces), room temperature
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

  1.  Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from the heat. Cut the 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons/2 ounces) of butter into tablespoon-sized pieces and stir into the chocolate until melted. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the remaining 3 sticks (12 ounces) butter and cream cheese using the whisk attachment until perfectly smooth. Add the vanilla and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Add the confectioner’s sugar 1 cup at a time, turning off the machine between additions to avoid spraying the sugar everywhere. Blend on medium speed until it is very smooth.
  4. Add the chocolate mixture and blend until it is fully incorporated.
  5. Apply liberally to the cooled cakes. If there’s any extra, store it in an airtight container in the freezer.


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Dinner 911: Baked Potato Bar Mon, 21 Oct 2013 17:28:15 +0000 When time is short, there's nothing you can't put on top of a boiled/baked/microwaved/steamed potato. So, tell me, what's your favorite topping?

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What’s atop your fresh-dug spud?

Right this very moment, while I am inside staying warm and dry, all the growers I know are putting in overtime (as if there’s anything else) to bring in the harvest. Every morning we wake to the glitter of frost and think, “How lovely!” They are thinking, “Hurry up!”

A few Sunday’s ago, my whole family pitched in at Backyard Gardens (BYG)  to unearth those tubers we so love in so many ways. (Hello, old friend stuffed baked potato.) Honestly, I thought Molly & Cece would last all of 13 1/2 minutes at the task. Yes, it’s backbreaking, it’s dirty, it’s tedious…

It’s also a treasure hunt. One that even hooks adults.

potato harvest

I was astounded to see the undying enthusiasm among everyone who helped out on that day to find every single one in the ground, to yelp with delight at the discovery of an especially humongous spud (the biggest weighed 1 3/4 pounds) and to groan when a poor helpless potato got stabbed with the garden fork. (No worries: those went into the bucket for staff lunches to come.)

As the sun slanted toward Chief Joseph Mountain, the girls helped BYG owner Beth weigh up the 100-pound bags that she’ll store and sell in bulk to her faithful customers and CSA members.

I think the crew would have worked ’til sundown (we harvested 650 pounds but didn’t even get to fork up those darlin’ fingerlings) if I didn’t call them all to supper.

A potato bar with all the fixin’s: sauteed chard, caramelized onions, black bean chili, homemade salsa, goat cheese, cheddar cheese, feta cheese–and all the butter and sour cream you could stand–was laid out on a table in the field.

With hands scrubbed as best we could, we sat on overturned buckets and feasted on those fresh-dug potatoes. Each person made their own combination of toppings for a personalized loaded potato to love. (Molly went for the classic butter and sour cream, Cece ventured into the black bean territory while I piled on chard with those onions and goat cheese, a trio I heartily recommend for your baked potato bar.)

In my searching for good toppings, I found few items you cannot put on top of a boiled/baked/microwaved/steamed whole potato in its jacket. They’re ideal for leftovers from curried vegetables to beef stew or even thick soups. And when the fridge is bare but for a lump of cheese and a limp broccoli stock? Put it on a hot potato.

potato harvest 2

We’re officially adopting this “happy meal” into our dinner rotation when homework and sports put a premium on quick and easy or what we parents call Dinner 911. I’m even thinking that this is the ideal menu for a Halloween Party.

So tell me, what are your favorite toppings for an out-of-the-ordinary baked potato?

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Wheat Berry Salad with a Side of Farm Stories Fri, 11 Oct 2013 06:16:22 +0000 I recently bought a 25-pound bag of soft white wheat berries with the intention of grinding the flour to make the loaves of lunch bread. But I'm blocked.

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What do you do with 25 pounds of wheat berries?
Wheat Berry Pear Salad

Unlike most people these days, I have an affinity for wheat. My husband, Benjamin, grew up on a wheat farm not far from this valley up on a high plateau where you can see the tips of the rounded Blue Mountains in one direction and the toothy Wallowa Mountains in the other. In our early days as a couple, we took tons of road trips–through Washington, Montana, Wyoming and Oregon–and his ability to identify crops at 65 m.p.h. growing in fields impressed this New England girl.

“That’s barley,” he would say glancing over his shoulder. Or, “Smell the timothy,” a type of grass hay he loved so much he included it in more than one of his poems.

“Is that barley?,” I’d ask riding shotgun and straining to examine seed heads whizzing by in a roadside field. “No, that’s wheat,” he’d say.

Like most farmers, his dad (who was honest to god named Elmo and is the only Elmo in the world we recognize in this family) sold all the wheat they produced into the commodities market. The family had but a five-gallon bucket for themselves at harvest’s end. His mother, Jean, cooked those wheat berries for breakfast as long as they lasted through the snow-filled seasons. They squeaked and popped between the boy Benjamin’s teeth, a hot breakfast for a lone farm kid up on that cold and windy plateau.

I recently bought a 25-pound bag of soft white wheat berries with the intention of grinding the flour to bake the girls’ lunch bread I swore I’d start making faithfully. But I’m blocked, a bread baker with apprehensions about milling. I guess I’ve studied too much flour science to believe that it could actually be that simple.

So, the brown bulk sits in storage while I repeatedly buy small bags of professionally milled flours from Wheat Montana and Shepherd’s Grain for my renewed efforts at baking bread.

As for those wheat berries, I’ve recently become hooked on boiling them up in my pressure cooker instead. They are a real lifesaver at lunchtime, especially if, like me, you’re avoiding bready type lunches. (Paradoxical, isn’t it?)

You can take these berries in any direction, but I’m especially partial to today’s combination of ripe diced pear, chopped caramelized onions, walnuts, feta and the tiny beet greens Benjamin and I picked off our crop of beets last weekend just before storing them. (With all that flavor going on already in the bowl, I just splashed in red wine vinegar, avocado oil with salt and pepper and tossed.)

The wheat berries squeaked and popped between my teeth. I could not get enough.

Next school day I’m going to boil up a pot of them for our girls to warm themselves up on with maple syrup and milk. Just like their dad did. I’m guessing he’ll have a few farm stories to tell them.

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Fire-Roasted Tomatoes Thu, 03 Oct 2013 21:26:15 +0000 When you smell the tomatoes wafting from the oven, take a peek. They're doing just fine bubbling in the oil and their own liquid. Let them be.

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While the tomatoes roast, your future begins.
Fire-Roasted Tomatoes

How you get back on when you’ve fallen off the wagon (of anything you’ve resolved to do or not do) and you want to get back on?

How do you attack that stack in your inbox? Those ever-loving receipts & invoices? The tree debris in your yard? Your bucket list?

How do you resolve to take it one baby step at a time but in your heart you believe it’s better to leap?

So all you want to do is read your backlog of New Yorkers–or catch up with Top Chef, all the way back to season 3–just give up or check out?

When you believe that now, with the kids in school, you’ll get so much more done, but don’t?

When self-acceptance and guilt are in a silent power struggle?

All the while, those tomatoes are waiting ever so patiently on your counter. But they will not last much longer.

This is the part that will ease you into all the rest: Turn on the oven to 400 degrees F. Plop those tomatoes (stems and rotten parts cut out) into your largest roasting pan and pour over 3 glugs of olive oil with a generous sprinkling of your favorite salt. Tuck in a few sprigs of thyme and whole garlic cloves.

Put them in the oven. Do not set the timer. Select one of your tasks or resolutions and begin it in any way you can.

When you smell the tomatoes wafting from the oven, take a peek. They’re doing just fine bubbling in the oil and their own liquid. Let them be until their skins begin to blacken.

It is only time to take them out when all of them are as wrinkled as your hands will be when you are old. When you don’t have as many choices or opportunities as you do in this very moment.

Puree them into a soup, toss them with pasta. Freeze them or can them in pint jars.

There, that job is done. Everything is possible.

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Dinner 911: Just Grill It! Wed, 24 Jul 2013 19:37:52 +0000 It is definitely too hot to cook! What to do? Take it outside and grill every last bit of your next meal, like this fig, goat cheese and toast appetizer.

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Oh honey, I know it’s too hot to cook.
Grilled Figs

It is 83 degrees and feels like 400. Convection.

You are on vacation. You are working overtime. You have deadlines.

You have children or house guests. You wish you were somebody’s guest.

Somebody with central air. Or a seaside home with a steady breeze.

Or a walk-in refrigerator.

Outfitted with a lounge chair.

And yet.

You have cravings. There are mouths to feed.

The day is leaning to evening and you must, despite the heat


Whatever it is, whatever you have on hand

Grill it.

All of it, like this:

Man Your Own Grill2

If you are a beginning griller, read this first. For moral support. I’ve got your back.

Grilled Figs & Bread

On a steamy July night, I’m inclined to call this dinner. Or, serve it as a first course while the rest of the meal is grilling.

  1. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat (400 degrees or so). Scrape the grill grate well.
  2. Make a balsamic vinaigrette with 2 parts extra-virgin olive oil to 1 part good-quality balsamic vinegar. Add a clove of garlic and a teaspoon of tamari, plus any tender fresh herbs you have on hand, finely chopped.
  3. Bring a log of goat cheese to room temperature. Slice ripe figs in half and brush with the vinaigrette.Slice a loaf of ciabatta and brush it on both sides with olive oil.
  4. Grill the figs on the cut side until the sugars begins to brown along the grate. Use tongs to remove them to a platter.Grill the bread until nicely toasted and transfer to the platter alongside the figs with the goat cheese. Drizzle the figs with more of the vinaigrette.
  5. To serve spread the toasts with goat cheese and top with the figs, Drizzling more of the vinaigrette on to taste. (Reserve any remaining vinaigrette for a salad dressing.)

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