It was such sad news yesterday to hear that Nora Ephron had died at 71. She’s probably best know for her film scripts like When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, and more recently Julie & Julia. I’m completely indebted to her for Heartburn.
The novel (later a film — but not as good as the novel) tells the story of food writer Rachel Samstat and her short marriage to a philandering political writer. The story carries some remarkable similarities to Nora Ephron’s short marriage to Watergate whistle-blower Carl Bernstein and her discovery of his cheating while she was in the late stages of pregnancy with their second child. The book is peppered with Rachel’s recipes for things like Potatoes Anna and Peach Pie. The topper, however, is her Vinaigrette, a much-touted recipe she doesn’t share until the end of the story.
As a fresh-out-of-college technical writer who was largely only familiar with salad dressing that came from bottles with the words “Thousand” and “Island” on them, I was intrigued. I showed the recipe to my much-better-cook co-technical writer, but rolled my eyes at the fancypants ingredients called for.
“Red wine vinegar? Olive oil? Grey Poupon? Who keeps this stuff around?” I’d asked.
“Um, me,” he’d replied.
So I took a trip to the local market, got myself some fancypants ingredients that are now pantry staples, and made Rachel’s vinaigrette. More than 20 years later, it, or a variation, is still about the only dressing I use. Here’s how Rachel says to make it:
Mix two tablespoons Grey Poupon mustard with two tablespoons good red wine vinegar. Then, whisking constantly with a fork, slowly add six tablespoons olive oil, until the vinaigrette is thick and creamy; this makes a very strong vinaigrette that’s perfect for salad greens like arugula and watercress and endive.
Rest in peace, Nora Ephron. And thank you.