In the Summer of Salads I explained all the joys of salads. But without a tasty vinaigrette or dressing, a salad can very easily fall flat. So as promised here is a simple tutorial of how to make your salads sing.
There are three components to a vinaigrette; oil, acid, and seasonings, oh, and an emulsifier. I remember when I first learned how to make dressing I was scared of the word emulsify. It means the mixing two ingredients together that don’t normally mix. Do not be afraid. Yes, mustard can be used to blend the oil and vinegar together, but you can definitely omit it and just vigorously whisk the dressing together right before pouring it on the salad.
There are literally so many oils and acids that you probably have never heard of. Here’s a list a few that are worthy of keeping in your pantry for day to day use.
Olive Oil- A light version is my go to. I wouldn’t use extra virgin. Because it tastes like olives, unless that is the flavor you desire.
Grapeseed- This is another good light flavored oil. I find it to be a bit more oiler, so you don’t need as much
Canola- In a pinch it works but not really my favorite because it tastes like oil.
Lemon Juice- My favorite, even when I’m not making a lemon based vinaigrette lemon is incorporated somehow
Balsamic Vinegar- A good go to when you want a lot of depth
Champagne Vinegar- A nice light vinegar that takes on the tastes of the seasonings really well
Red Wine Vinegar- A very acidic and has a slightly tangy flavor
Apple Cider Vinegar- A good sweet dressing
Garlic/onion/shallot-chopped very fine (You may also use dried versions of these things. Although the flavor isn’t as good it’s better then watching these things grow mold if you don’t use them often)
Honey/agave/brown sugar- most of the time you need some type of sweetener to take the tartness off the acid
Lemon/Lime zest- magically brightens
Salt, pepper-these are key to dressings!
Now, the above ingredients are almost always necessary. But the cool thing about making your own vinaigrette is you can add any flavor you like, any chopped herbs, jelly, fish sauce, orange juice…seriously almost any liquid.
I guess this would be the place in this post where I put in a recipe but I don’t really have one. Making vinaigrette is all about understanding the components, combining the vinegar and seasonings in a bowl, and then whisking in the oil SLOWLY. Although you shouldn’t be afraid of the word emulsify, incorporating the oil in slowly is probably the most important thing you can do to ensure your vinaigrette isn’t too oily. A blender or food processor is an excellent cheat tool here, but a whisk and a bowl work just fine. A general rule is 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar (so like ½ cup oil to ¼ cup vinegar) but I have never been good at math to do all that measuring.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Cilantro-Lime- 1 part champagne vinegar, 2 parts lime juice, chopped garlic/cilantro, agave, olive oil
Basic Balsamic- Balsamic vinegar, a spoon of Dijon mustard, brown sugar, orange zest, olive oil (strawberry or raspberry balsamic add a couple spoonful’s of jelly)
Italian- Red wine vinegar, spoon of mustard, dried or fresh “Italian seasoning” herbs, garlic, olive oil
The key here is to make something you like and it may to take some failed dressings to get there, but guess what? That’s ok.
Whatever you make has to be better then ingesting a store bought sugary, fatty, 18 ingredient dressing.
I really wish someone could explain to me what “natural flavor” is.