Emulsion produces unity of opposites

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Who says oil and water don't mix? Take a look at an emulsion and you will see that they do.

An emulsion is a mixture of incompatible fluids in which tiny droplets of one liquid are suspended in the other. Everyday kitchen emulsions include vinaigrettes, mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce.

For the cook, getting incompatible liquids to bond requires serious mixing. When you produce an emulsion, you've created something mind-boggling -- a single tablespoon of oil added to a mayonnaise breaks into about 30 billion individual droplets. The procedure isn't difficult. To make mayonnaise, you simply mix eggs with lemon or vinegar, then whisk vigorously while slowing adding oil.

A vinaigrette can be created by shaking. Because the ingredients' natural behavior is to repel each other, a vinaigrette that's been sitting around for a while will need to be shaken. To produce more stable emulsions, you need an emulsifier. Eggs contain a natural emulsifier called lecithin. The casein proteins in milk and cream can also do the job.

From there, the list of common emulsifiers veers into items familiar only to those with an advanced degree in chemistry. Emulsifiers are found in everything from commercial ice cream to the sauce on your Big Mac and include such items as diglycerides, polysorbates, sorbitan monostearate and xanthan gum.

MIXED GREENS WITH BLUE CHEESE AND CHAMPAGNE VINAIGRETTE

Champagne vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup bottled clam juice

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

Salad:

12 cups mixed baby greens or spring mix

1 cup pecans, toasted

1 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese

Coarsely ground black pepper

To prepare vinaigrette, place champagne vinegar, Dijon mustard, clam juice and garlic in a blender and purée until smooth. Slowly add oil, blending until smooth. Add honey and salt; blend well.

To prepare salad, place lettuce in a large salad bowl. Add pecans, cranberries and bleu cheese. Toss well. Drizzle with 1/2 cup Champagne vinaigrette. (You'll have vinaigrette left over). Season with pepper. Toss. Serves 8.

-- Recipe by Doug Hosford

NUTRITION PER SERVING: 280 calories, 20 grams fat, 6 grams protein, 23 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber and 310 milligrams sodium.

Look for Relish magazine, celebrating America's love of food, each first Wednesday in The Augusta Chronicle. Learn more at relishmag.com.

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