Boat Salad & Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette

Hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving. Ours was enjoyed with many family and friends…and tons of FOOD!!!

This year, as each person sat down around the table after piling high his/her plate from the buffet of savory dishes, someone asked, “What food do you always take a bite of first?”

The most cited answer: nope, not turkey…stuffing.

But truly, it’s all so dang droolingly delicious. It breaks my heart that it’s over within minutes and then I have to wait another year for the feast and family and friends. Yes, I see most of these people throughout the year–and we have plenty of feasts–but there’s just something about this day that makes it better than all the others…

Well, I stuffed myself silly and so did hubby. Hence, detox time on Friday…and Saturday…and Sunday…so we made a HUGE bowl of salad that will last us for a few days.

Okay, so why is the bowl of greens called “Boat Salad”? Well, hubby used to own a big fishing boat, and whenever he took his buddies out fishing, he always chopped up a HUGE bowl of salad, which the guys dubbed the “Boat Salad” and always demanded he make. Hearty enough for big bulky fishermen.

Really, it’s just a big bowl of chopped up lettuce and veggies–whatever you have on hand. This particular bowl includes red lettuce, green cabbage, purple cabbage, carrots, celery, red peppers, radishes, and broccoli. Sometimes we add bean sprouts and cucumbers and yellow squash and zucchini and mushrooms. The variety of colors and textures make this an aesthetically appealing salad.

I also love to add walnuts or pecans to mine. And feta cheese. And I’ve discovered that a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds are quite a tangy addition, too. By the way, check out Mel’s Kitchen Cafe for her tutorial on Seeding a Pomegranate–it works!

Okay, so the salad concoction is healthy…until you add this Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette. However, if you don’t go overboard on the dressing, it’s probably not too unhealthy. But it’s sure a sweet dressing due to the high sugar content. It also contains the unusual yet surprisingly tasty addition of vanilla bean seeds from the pod (see video for extracting seeds from a vanilla bean).

I came across this dressing this past summer when hubby and I visited his mom in West Virginia and we all ate dinner at the Panorama at the Peak restaurant. I begged the owner for the recipe, and I figured since it is a small town and she knows my mother-in-law, she would accommodate my begging. She refused at first, but then toward the end of our meal, the chef himself visited our table and handed me a piece of scrap paper with the recipe. Despite the fact that his body was drenched in sweat from slaving away in the fiery kitchen, I jumped up and enveloped him in a humongo hug. I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled, to have this recipe.

Me and hubby with the Potomac River behind us, as seen from Panorama at the Peak

Gorgeous sunset at Panorama at the Peak

Since I had never heard of Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette before, when I got home I researched the recipe and found many versions on the internet. This particular recipe, though, comes from the very gracious chef at Panorama at the Peak, and I’m tickled to have such a unique dressing in my repertoire. It certainly has potential to add flair to your holiday dinner fare, and it will certainly provide a sweet spin to your salad any time of year.

By the way, in case you like that cool dressing dispenser, I found it at Crate and Barrel recently. Only $8.95. Cute, isn’t it? And very handy. The only problem: you have to hold your finger over the spout to shake the bottle; otherwise, dressing will spout all over you!

Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette

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  • 1 cup + 2  tbsp. sugar
  • 2/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • seeds of 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/4 cup canola oil


  1. Place sugar and vinegar in a small pan and heat over low flame until sugar melts. Let cool.
  2. Whisk in mustard, salt, vanilla bean, and oil.

SOURCE: Chef at Panorama at the Peak restaurant, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

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