Out of this world watercress salad w/Basalmic Vinegrette

BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE:

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white or black pepper

WATERCRESS SALAD:

1 pound watercress, tough stems trimmed
2 large red tomatoes, cut into bite size wedges
1 large yellow tomato, cut into bite size wedges
1 sweet onion, such as Vidalia, thinly sliced
1 large cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into short strips
1 cup radishes, cut into bite sized pieces
½ cup fresh mushrooms, quartered
½ cup hearts of palm, cut into bite sized pieces


DIRECTIONS:


To make the vinaigrette: Combine the oil, vinegar, basil, chives, shallots, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper in a container with a tightly sealed top (a small canning jar works well). Cover tightly and shake well, until dressing is well blended. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. Shake well before serving.

To make the Watercress Salad: In a large bowl, toss the watercress, red tomatoes, yellow tomato, onion, cucumber, bell pepper, radishes, mushrooms, and hearts of palm. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss to coat.

Patti's Pointers: "I like to buy bagged watercress because it's triple-washed and nearly ready to serve. Look for it near the herbs or lettuces in most super markets. I like to eat watercress because it has a delicate peppery taste- a refreshing change from plain ol' iceberg lettuce. To trim, tear off (or cut off) any thick, tough stems. But leave the smaller stems intact. The add crunch to the salad. Look for hearts of palm in the canned vegetable aisle of the supermarket. They are the tender "heart" of the tropical cabbage palm tree and taste a bit like an artichoke heart. If you cant find hearts of palm, you can use artichoke hearts instead.