The food we serve at Bench kitchen is what we call cold climate cuisine. I have done my best to keep the focus of the menu to remain local and Niagara produce-centric. When the season affords us the luxury – almost every item can be brought in from the local farms and vendors found in the Niagara region. It has not always been easy to bend and not break on this philosophy. We serve sourdough and in and around 2017, almost weekly we had to respond to the question “Why don’t you serve avocado on sourdough toast?” “What about a turkey club with avocado?” Here is thing: I love avocado toast. I love avocado in general. However, avocado can’t be grown in this area so I put my foot down that we will never serve that. Although, I guess hypocritically – I do feel that it is occasionally OK to stray from this philosophy. A sandwich feature with jerked pork loin and a pineapple salsa or serving a delicious vegan tomato coconut soup – neither item is permanent. Sandwich features come and go and soups always change. I did worry that the second I put that much requested avo on toast on the menu it would never leave. Then, I will have strayed from one of the businesses core values – keep it local. But perhaps the bigger issue is that I am also extremely stubborn and once I have decided no avo we won’t have avo – even if would sell like crazy. Does that make me a poor businessman? Maybe? So..with all the talk about keeping the menu local and sticking to core values – enter lemons.
The lemon honey vinaigrette that dresses our quinoa salad has been on the menu since day one. Lemons to me don’t count in the whole “keep it local” philosophy. Nothing replaces a lemon. Only lemons are lemons and a good kitchen needs them to cook properly. Unlike an avocado that can either be there or not – lemons are a critical part of the pantry. How could we ever make the lemon curd for those amazing lemon brulee tarts without lemon? How could we make a proper aioli without freshly squeezed lemon juice? Finally, how could we survive a hot summer days without a cold glass of lemon iced tea? I have tried using verjus and other acids, but they just don’t have that bite or brightness lemon gives. This vinaigrette is so simple yet so perfect. It has the perfect balance of acid, sweet and salty. It works so well and is so popular that, even though lemons are not grown in Niagara, it will never leave the menu. Over the years, many people have asked for this recipe and I have given it out without a second thought. Four ingredients and a good reamer is all you need – good honey (we use Rosewood estates honey which is the absolute best around), a clean oil, sea salt & lemon juice.
Lemon Honey Vinaigrette
- 70 g Lemon Juice, Freshly Squeezed
- 20 g Honey (We recommend Rosewood Estates Wildflower Unpasteurized Honey)
- 110 g Vegetable Oil (Something light-flavoured, such as Sunflower or Canola
- 3 g Sea Salt
- Combine all ingredients in a blender.
- Blend until smooth.There isn’t an emulsifying ingredient, like mustard, in this recipe so the vinaigrette with eventually split. Give it a good shake each time before you use it.