I know you can go to the grocery store and have your choice of salad dressing – BUT reading the ingredient list on the label is an exercise in tongue-twisting. In almost every restaurant I have ever worked, where salad was a prominent part of the menu, we made our own. The awesome thing about vinaigrette is it is a nature-defying substance that makes simple vegetables burst with flavour. It is an emulsion of oil and vinegar – two things that don’t like to be mixed together. Using a whisk and helpers like mustard and honey, vinaigrettes can stay together very effectively. The help of an emulsion blender (or stick blender to some) can further assist you in making a dressing that is not unlike a mayonnaise. It can be thick and creamy and won’t separate when left in the fridge.
Vinaigrette is versatile in that it is not JUST a salad dressing – but is, instead, a marinade for meat and fish, a garnish for vegetable dishes etc. You can make as much or as little as you’d like and can customize it for the dishes you’re preparing and the people you’re preparing it for. Don’t like garlic? Don’t use it. Want it to be extra spicy? Add some chili flakes to the mix.
The recipe below is sort of a “basic” version you can easily switch up to create countless variations. The best thing about making your own? It is fast, easy and a much healthier alternative than buying bottles that will certainly not be as delicious as making your own.
I’m terrible at measuring things. If you’ve been to one of my cooking classes and are a stalwart measurer, you’ve cringed watching me say “about this much” when I pour something into a bowl. I get that there are measurers out there; I’m just not one of them. The basic ratio is 3:1, oil to vinegar. This can be altered for those of you looking for less acid or more acid. Taste as you go. That’s the point. Add some garlic, some salt, pepper, herbs you feel like trying and have on hand. Mustard helps to emulsify so I usually add it in. Honey helps too – and provides that hint of sweetness that rounds out the flavour. You might want to try citrus for some or all of the acid. I’m a huge fan of extra virgin olive oil for dressings – but I might add a bit of another oil for flavour. Here’s a basic recipe that will help you get started. I won’t tell if you eyeball the measurements.
1/3 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon
1 teaspoon honey
1 clove garlic, minced
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Add vinegar, mustard, honey and garlic in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste.