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Sep 24, 2015

Salad Dressing 101: An Every Man's Guide for Making the Perfect Vinaigrette

created at: 04/15/2013

Why anyone would pay for a bottle of vinegar and oil-based salad dressing is beyond me. Homemade vinaigrettes should be a staple in every kitchen, and they're super easy to make. It's simply a matter of memorizing one easy recipe, then adding and adjusting seasoning to fit any meal.

So, the anatomy of a vinaigrette... and some other nerdy facts that will leave you feeling like a true gourmand.

What's a vinaigrette?

Without getting too geeky, a vinaigrette is a temporary emulsion that's made out of oil, vinegar, and a seasoning (usually salt and pepper). Different from a traditional salad "dressing," which has more ingredients and may be a permanent emulsion like mayo, vinaigrettes are very easy to make and can be served with nearly any veggie on planet earth. They even work great as marinades for your summer BBQs (the acid in the vinaigrette tenderizes the meat and, the oil helps in the cooking process).

Since they only require three main ingredients, you can pretty much make any combination you can think of with any ingredient available in your kitchen cabinet.

Once you have the correct ratio of oil to vinegar, then you can go wild and creative.

What's the perfect vinaigrette ratio?

The perfect ratio is 3:1 - 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. That's your secret weapon. Once you've tried a few times, you'll be able to eye the ingredients without using any measuring tools, and you can whip these up in no time.

HOW TO MAKE A VINAIGRETTE:

Step 1: Measure 1 part of vinegar.

Step 2: Measure 3 parts of oil.

Step 3: Add seasoning.

Step 4: Shake it like a polaroid picture!

Step 5: Serve and enjoy.

Now that you know the basics, let's get adventurous and start mixing and matching different ingredients. Here are a few ideas to get your started:

created at: 04/15/2013

OILS:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: the all-in-one choice. You can get a good quality EVOO for $37 over at Williams-Sonoma, or for less at your grocery store. TIP: Make sure the bottle is dark green - light bottles expose the oil to daylight, which could potentially change the flavor. (Fun fact: this bottle of EVOO costs $15,000 - holy shiza!)
  • Avocado Oil: Rich in vitamins D, E and A - a tasty alternative to EVOO, available at most natural/organic grocers.
  • Flaxseed Oil: Perfect for all of you Omega-3 fans. Make sure you always keep in the fridge and use it within 3 months of opening, otherwise it will go funky.
  • Sesame Oil: A tasty asian twist. I wouldn't use the full oil ratio with this one, as it tends to be quite strong. I say you mix it with something like canola or EVOO to tame it down. 

created at: 04/15/2013

VINEGARS:

  • Balsamic: My go-to vinegar for a quick and easy vinaigrette. The real Balsamic can be quite costly (because it's aged for years and all that jazz). Nevertheless, there are tons of affordable, "Balsamic variations", with added flavors available at most markets.
  • Apple Cider: Chosen by many for its health benefits - apple cider vinegar goes well with most everyday salads. Fun Fact: According to this article, "it's supposed to kill head lice, reverse aging, ease digestion, and wash toxins from the body". Intense, right?
  • Champagne: if you want to get all fancy pants, go for this option. To be honest, it's worth the extra bucks - especially when you're using high quality ingredients (not for everyday use, but you should definitely have it in your pantry).

 

created at: 04/16/2013

 

SEASONINGS:

This is my favorite part; you can have the same oil and vinegars, but by mixing them with different seasonings you can create a bunch of different recipes. You can even make your own artisan salts or you can use any herbs in your pantry. Here are a few ideas:

  • Seasoning Salts: Same stuff you use for roasted potatoes! A total no-brainer, just sprinkle, mix, and go.
  • Chipotle Rub: Yep. It's not only for BBQs. Add it to your mix for a spicy kick.
  • Herbs: Thyme, Oregano, Basil, you name it. Mix your favorite herb (fresh of dry) with a pinch of salt and voila!

What did I tell you? Vinaigrettes are the easiest thing to make. I suggest you start by making small batches, then once you are a pro, bottle your own mix! This way, you'll save time and money.

Got any recipes of your own? Share them in the comments!

 

 

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drew on Sep 26, 2015:

Balsamic is a valid go to (tasty and reasonably priced), but sherry vinegar is my favorite. Shallots and mustard are other great additions. 


Zach on Apr 22, 2013:

Using a seeded mustard as the spice always works well for me. It helps add the sweetness which can make a bland salad exciting!


Celo on Apr 20, 2013:

There's an alternative to vinegar called Melfor. It is quite mild, but not sweet. I have no idea if it's possible to find it out of eastern France, but here's the website : http://www.melfor.com/en/