Vinaigrette Salad Dressing -- Find the Perfect Vinaigrette Recipe & More
Ever slave over a meal for guests, and all they talk about is the salad? If you haven't, the reason is simple: You just haven't found the right vinaigrette recipe yet.
I can't think of a bigger-impact 5 (maybe 10) minutes in the kitchen than making a homemade vinaigrette. So simple, it somehow makes everything it touches special. Bottled vinaigrette salad dressing cannot compare, even the "gourmet" brands.
The primary use for vinaigrette is, of course, to dress a green salad. But it's also wonderful on grated carrots, grilled or roasted vegetables of almost any kind, baked potato, grilled fish, even grilled or broiled meats. Hate mayo? Toss warm cubes of potato in a good homemade vinaigrette for a flavorful, heart-healthy potato salad.
Vinaigrette Basics: Oil & Acid
At its heart, vinaigrette is just a mix of oil and acid. Extra virgin olive oil is a common choice, but you can also use canola oil, nut oils -- your choice. Vinegar is most commonly used as the acid -- red wine, white wine, and champagne vinegar are all delicious in vinaigrette, but you can also use Asian rice vinegar, cider vinegar or (for a stronger flavor) balsamic vinegar. Lemon juice makes a good acid, too, but you may need to use a bit more of it than you would vinegar.
The standard ratio for vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. It's a good idea to start there, taste, and add more vinegar (or lemon) if you'd like. A dash of salt & pepper is a good idea, too, or more if you like. And a spoonful (or more) of dijon mustard adds zing and emulsifies your vinaigrette, so it's creamy and sticks better to lettuce leaves.
You can stop there and have a wonderful vinaigrette. Nothing more needed. Or if you'd like, add fresh or dried herbs, tasting as you go. Basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, and chives make nice additions. But an herb-less vinaigrette will be most versatile, in terms of playing well off whatever dishes you're serving.
How to mix? Use a fork, a wire whisk, or even a blender. Or do as I do and just dump the ingredients into a clean jelly jar, screw on the lid tightly, and shake a few times. Voila -- a lovely homemade vinaigrette.
~~Shake it up baby~~
Go the jelly jar one further with this salad dressing maker & shaker, which shows ingredients & proportions for vinaigrette & other salad dressings. This is the latest tool in my (small) salad making arsenal.
This has been so handy for quick dressing-making, I've started giving it as a budget-friendly gift, too.
My Favorite Vinaigrette Recipe
My absolute favorite vinaigrette recipe, and the one I make most often, is gloriously simple -- with a rich, to me very "French" flavor from uber-healthy roasted walnut oil:
La Tourangelle Walnut Oil Vinaigrette:
4 tbsp. roasted walnut oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
dash of salt to taste
Combine all ingredients; whisk or shake to blend; enjoy!
One caveat: Unlike many other oils, this one needs to be stored in the fridge after opening.
At some point I realized Amazon's pricing beats my supermarket's for walnut oil, which is something of a luxury item, but each can lasts quite a while. Note: refrigerate after opening!
My Backup Vinaigrette Recipe
Before I discovered walnut oil vinaigrette, this was my go-to basic recipe, adapted from Moosewood Restaurant.
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
black pepper to taste
optional: 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil, chives, dill, tarragon, marjoram and/or parsley, in any combination
More Vinaigrette Recipes
Health Benefits --
The health benefits of vinegar are still up for debate, but olive oil is a known heart-helper, and vinaigrette spares us the saturated fat found in creamy dressings.
~~Sayonara, soggy lettuce~~
The world's tastiest vinaigrette will still fall flat on wet lettuce. It won't adhere well, and the water will dilute its flavor. Plus, soggy salads are just yucky. I got sick of using dish towels & paper towels to laboriously dry my lettuce, and got this pretty spinner that doubles as a salad soaker/rinser and (with its easy-lock feature) storage container.
Show & Tell
Vinaigrette is so simple, you probably don't need coaching. But if you do, I like this video by "Barefoot Contessa" Ina Garten on how to make vinaigrette
Do you make your vinaigrette from scratch? What's your favorite vinaigrette recipe?