Sanaë Lemoine is a Brooklyn-based, Japanese-French author who published her first novel, The Margot Affair, this past summer. Sanaë previously worked in test kitchens and as a cookbook editor at Martha Stewart and Phaidon. Because of her background in food, the novel is rich in its descriptions of food and drink, offering an experience of travel and escape that feels particularly welcome given the circumstances. Sanaë has shared the recipe for a classic French Vinaigrette that makes an appearance in her novel.
"My parents couldn’t be more different in their style of cooking—my French father prefers salted butter and cream in everything; my Japanese mother eats miso soup and pickles for breakfast—but one dish they both unequivocally love is salad with vinaigrette. At every meal, lunch or dinner, there was always a simple green salad dressed in a mustardy vinaigrette. It’s a tradition I’ve carried over into adulthood—not just the salad itself, but the homemade vinaigrette, whisked in a small bowl and poured over lettuce."
"It was only natural that several years later, this vinaigrette would make an appearance in my novel, The Margot Affair. It’s the story of Margot, the hidden daughter of an affair between a French politician and a famous stage actress. While the novel isn’t a culinary exploration of Paris, it takes inspiration from the flavors and textures of Margot’s world. I wanted the reader to be transported by her sensory observations and also feel rooted in the character’s everyday life. In the third chapter, Margot and her mother are invited to dinner at a friend’s apartment. Before dressing the salad, the friend asks Margot to taste her vinaigrette, which she makes with a teaspoon of mayonnaise."
"A vinaigrette is one of the simplest ways to elevate a salad. Yes, sometimes I'll drizzle olive oil and balsamic onto arugula, but most days I take a few minutes to make a French vinaigrette. I love the mellow sweetness of champagne vinegar combined with the fresh, peppery aroma of extra-virgin olive oil. And then, of course, the spiciness of Dijon mustard. We can’t live without it in our household. My husband’s father is from Dijon in Burgundy, and their family makes a vinaigrette with enough mustard to make you cough. It’s so thick it barely coats the lettuce leaves. I use less in my recipe—two teaspoons—just enough to provide a kick without overpowering the other flavors. I’ve also added a teaspoon of crème fraîche for a luscious texture. It balances the acidity of the vinegar and gives the dressing a lovely, subtle creaminess.
Vinaigrettes are very personal and should be adjusted to your taste: maybe you prefer a bit more acidity (add an extra drop of vinegar) or want more sweetness (a pinch of sugar does the trick) or less mustard (use one teaspoon in that case). Either way, make sure to taste your vinaigrette and play with the ratios to your liking. There’s no absolute rule here—use this recipe as a guide rather than a perfect formula."
By Sanaë Lemoine
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons PARASOL champagne vinegar
- Coarse salt (I use fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon crème fraîche (you can omit or replace with 1 teaspoon mayonnaise)
- ¼ cup ALIVE extra-virgin olive oil
In a small bowl, whisk or stir together mustard and vinegar until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Add crème fraîche and stir well to combine. Slowly stream in olive oil, whisking or stirring, until combined. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if desired.
The vinaigrette will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a week. Bring to room temperature before drizzling on salad.