VINAIGRETTE VERSIONS VOILA!


KITCHEN BASICS - THE VINAIGRETTE

Take all that creamy production salad dressing with chemicals, preservatives and fillers and live longer, trash them.  The basic vinaigrette is the commercial chefs go-to dressing because its safe, it keeps, its healthy and few have allergies to it.  Most restaurant house dressings are variations of the basic vinaigrette with a twist or turn of herbs and spices off the map giving it a special taste.  

You can experiment and create your own house dressing.  If you go to the dressing aisle or counter at your local supermarkets, there are a hundred variations on themes from Italian to Jamaican and endorsed by every major food company and humble persons of celebrity.  Read the labels of ingredients for more ideas.

Making a basic vinaigrette for salads is one of the best and easiest skills a home cook can have.  Its as easy as combining olive oil and vinegar in a jar with some salt and fresh-cracked black pepper, and then giving that jar a shake. You barely even need a recipe. This is the starting point for good vinaigarette.  A few additional herbs spices, emulsifiers and peppers can create innumerable variants.

And the tools merely consist of a bowl and a whisk or fork and in larger quantities I use a hand blender.


A COUPLE REALLY SIMPLE RULES

  • It did not take Einstein to figure out how to make a good vinaigrette.  He might of known about relativity, but cooking was not his forte`.  But a simple rule to follow is your vinaigrette is only as good as the oil, vinegar and herbs that go into it.   Cheap, light or  “Pure” Olive oils really lack the taste a good oil has.  Thus I keep two kinds in the pantry defined as cooking and dressing.  Oh, and the theory of relativity in the kitchen is expressed as “If your relatives liked it, you have a winner”.

  • Vinegars are another thing.  Pure to start with is best, many pre flavored vinegars can overpower the other ingredients in your vinaigrette and your salad. If you want to, you can easily create your own specialty with white vinegar and add herbs, spices, red peppers, chiles, garlic, even berries. Have at it.

  • Emulsifiers are a building block of a good vinaigrette, the breakdown the oil.  Adding mustard to the vinegar/citrus and oil will make the dressing creamy, while still fresh-tasting.  Dijon Mustard is the most popular and easy to work with and grated garlic will also add a creamy texture to your vinaigrettes.

  • A nice thing about homemade is you can make a 1/4 cup or a gallon.  Instead of whisking together dressing in a bowl, just add everything into a glass jar, cap it closed, and shake it to combine.  It will keep for weeks in the fridge, bring it to room temperature, so the oil liquifies, and shake hard.

  • We make the basic in quantity and then add the herbs just before each new serving.  Let stand for  while, the fresh flavor will marry. Honey, maple, agave, or plain old white sugar help round out the rest of the flavors.

  • The standard ratio for vinaigrettes is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. But it’s a flexible ratio, so use more vinegar if you like a tart dressing or more oil if you like it richer.  This is not locked in stone.

  • Balsamic vinaigrette will take you far in life. This is made just with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and the balsamic adds just the right touch of sweetness when tossed with salad greens.  Add a grainy mustard, some minced shallots, or a tablespoon of fresh chopped herbs. If you'd like a little more sweetness, whisk in some brown sugar or honey.

And since we’re talking variations, definitely use this basic recipe as a template for all your vinaigrette desires.  Hint: I have a small and a commercial immersion blender, and it does a great job of emulsification.


BASIC VINAIGARETTE

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil for flavor
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar white, cedar, apple, rice
  • salt to taste
  • fresh-ground black pepper 

Italian Vinaigrette Variation

  • Add to above but delete white vinegar use Red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Mustard Dressing Variation

  • Add to Italian vinaigrette above 
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon or spicy brown mustard
  • 1-3 teaspoon honey 


VARIATIONS ON CREAMY DRESSING

Basic Creamy Vinaigrette Dressing Variation

  • Basic vinaigrette - I would use white vinegar and let the other flavors take over
  • Add  2 -3 tablespoons mayonnaise or 2 -3 tablespoons sour cream or 2 -3 tablespoons plain yogurt creates creamy texture


Creamy Parmesan-Pepper Dressing

  • Basic creamy vinaigrette dressing
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper ( to taste)

Creamy Garlic Dressing

  • basic creamy vinaigrette dressing
  • 1 garlic clove, put through press
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 pinch italian seasoning (optional)

Lemon Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil ( I prefer extra-virgin)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Alternate - Lemon dressing could also be called Greek dressing. Doubled the oregano if using fresh, one clove of garlic and added 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. You can cut the oil back by one tablespoon or use four of the lemon to make it more lemony. 


BALSAMIC 

Balsamic Vinaigrette (Simple A)

  • 3 tablespoons oil ( I prefer extra-virgin olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 pinch Italian seasoning (optional)


Balsamic vinaigrette (More Complex B)
A versatile vinaigrette with a touch of sweetness – so much better and healthier than store-bought salad dressings. I make a jar at a time and use it on everything – salads, sandwiches, drizzled over grilled vegetables. Also makes a fantastic holiday or hostess gift.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard (whole grain dijon is also great if you have it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed (or minced if you like a stronger garlic flavor)

Directions

  1. In mixing bowl measure honey, mustard, salt, pepper and crushed garlic. Stir with fork  or whisk if you’re using minced garlic; the crushed garlic clove tends to get caught in the wires
  2. Add balsamic vinegar and stir.  Gradually oil, whisking incorporate. Stir until fully emulsified.
  3. Store in a jar with lid (a repurposed jam jar works nicely). Keeps indefinitely in refrigerator. I like to leave the garlic clove in, where it sits at the bottom of the jar and continues to release its subtle garlic flavor. 
  4. If using a blender or food processor, mix mustard, honey, garlic, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar first until garlic is well blended. Add oil in batches, pulsing to mix after each addition. Too much mixing will make the vinaigrette extremely thick. I learned this the hard way and had to make a runnier batch to whisk the two together. 


ASIAN SALAD VINAIGRETTE 

  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon  sugar
  • 3 tablespoons  soy sauce, pref. low-sodium
  • 1 tablespoon  ginger, fresh grated
  • 1⁄2teaspoon  garlic, fresh minced
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1⁄2cup peanut oil or 1⁄2 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon  sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1 tablespoon  scallion, chopped (green onions)

Mix first 5 ingredients in a bowl or food processor.  Then if using a bowl: SLOWLY drizzle in the sesame and peanut oil, whisking constantly so that the dressing will emulsify. If using a food processor, leave it running while you drizzle in the oil. When dressing is well combined, add sesame seeds and scallions.



Directions For All Recipes 

Shake all ingredients for your chosen variation together in a tightly-lidded container OR whisk together in a small bowl. I use a small whisk in a stainless bowl adding the oil last in small increments to get it to emulsify.   A blender is OK for making larger quantities.  If you have included herbs and spices let it stand 10 minutes to rehydrate dried herbs and blend flavors.  Keep shaking is the rule with vinaigrette.   In large quantities and for storage add the herbs just before serving at room temperature so the herbs will be fresh.  The fridge kills the herbs in storage.



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