Dressing Up!

Garbage Salad with Grated Cheese

a BASIC VINAIGRETTE makes a delectable meal from a lowly “Garbage Salad”

People, seriously?  You’re still buying bottled dressings?  Do you really want all that extra sugar, salt and other additives in your dressing, not to mention the expense? Whether you’ve taken the trouble to simply wash and spin dry simple lettuces for a salad, or committed extra time to creating a dream salad – maybe one with fruits and veggies, nuts, cheeses or meats – why on earth would you dress it in something other than the freshest, most vibrant tasting homemade version?  It’s simple and easily adaptable for any salad, as well as your personal taste.  Let’s begin with a simple vinaigrette.

The one rule you need to remember when making any vinaigrette is the ratio of oil to acid, which is universally accepted as 3:1.  The next thing you need to remember is that rules are made to be broken.  This is your salad after all, and shouldn’t you be the one calling the shots?  So what if like me, you usually prefer your salads leaving a tangy twinge in your cheek?  I happen to like acidic flavors, so sue me.

That being said, the traditional formula for vinaigrettes is three parts oil to one part acid. Other ingredients include salt and pepper.  Pretty much anything else you add is up to you.The important thing when whisking up your own, is that it’s often best to add your acid (vinegar, lemon juice, etc) to the salt and pepper first and then slowly whisk in your oil. This serves to temporarily emulsify your mixture. So if you are making this simple dressing just prior to serving, you’re good to go.  However, if you plan to make it ahead and refrigerate it until serving, you will need to bring it to room temp again, then give it another whisk to re-emulsify it.  You always want your ingredients to be fully blended so that every bite of your salad is lightly dressed with all of the flavors you intended.

And speaking of flavors, there are so many little tweaks you can add to your basic vinaigrette!  Below are a few suggestions that should keep you satisfied and serve as inspiration for your own homemade creations.  Now get to it!*

Basic vinaigrette

Basic Vinaigrette                                              Mustard Vinaigrette

1/4 cup red wine vinegar                                     1/4 cup white wine, champagne vinegar

1 tsp kosher salt                                                     1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp ground pepper                                          1/2 tsp ground pepper

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil                               1 scant tablespoon Dijon mustard

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Asian Vinaigrette                                              Italian Vinaigrette

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar                                     1/4 cup red wine vinegar

3 Tablespoons soy sauce                                      1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp kosher salt                                                      1/2 tsp ground pepper

1/2 tsp ground pepper                                           1 Tablespoon dried, crushed oregano

1 tsp lightly toasted sesame seeds                       1 tsp dried thyme

3/4 cup sesame oil                                                  1 clove garlic, minced

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

*Keep in mind, these recipes are just a jumping off point for you to use your imagination and, depending on the type of salad you are composing, feel free to add other fresh or dried herbs, the huge variety of flavored vinegars and oils available, and of course, creamy ingredients including sour cream, mayonnaise, heavy cream or creme fraiche, plain yogurt, and so much more!

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