Do you have so many bottles of vinaigrette in your fridge that when you open the door it sounds like wind chimes? Vinaigrette is one of the first things that any home cook should master for a couple of reasons. One, it’s expensive to buy and tends to be loaded with ingredients. I did a survey of eight popular brands of “Italian-style” vinaigrette. They averaged 17 ingredients. The basic recipe below has six.
Most people think of vinaigrette as something only to use on green salads. A vinaigrette can also be used as a marinade, splashed on roasted or steamed vegetables or as a light sauce for chicken or seafood.
Basic Vinaigrette Ratio
1 part acid + 3 parts oil = fabulous stuff
“Acids:” Any kind of vinegar, citrus juices (lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc.)
“Oils:” Fruit & vegetable oils (olive, corn, avocado, etc.), nut oils (hazelnut, walnut, peanut)
In a bowl, add the acid, whisk in the oil. Taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Congratulations, you’ve made vinaigrette.
Sample Recipe: French Dijon Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive olive
1 teaspoon finely chopped shallots
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
Two pinches salt
A few grinds fresh coarse pepper
Put the vinegar, mustard and shallots in a small bowl and whisk in the oil. Add the herbs, salt and pepper. Whisk again until incorporated. Taste. Or, you can put all the ingredients into a jar and just shake it vigorously.
Too tart for your taste? Add a bit of olive oil. Not tart enough? Add a couple drops of vinegar. Needs more salt? Add some. Continue until it tastes good to you.
But you want a fancy designer gourmet vinaigrette? Raspberry? Blueberry? Then add the berry to the bowl and whisk. Asian vinaigrette? Use some things from the Asian flavor profile: ginger, garlic, miso, sesame oil, peanut oil, soy sauce. An Italian Vinaigrette? Basil, garlic, tomato, white beans. Get some ideas from our “Cheat Sheet” to Profiles
Be creative. Acid and oil don’t like to stay mixed, so if you want, add an emulsifier, like egg yolk, mayonnaise or mustard before adding the oil, drop by drop, while you whisk. Always taste the vinaigrette with a leaf or two of the greens it will be dressing, so you know what it will actually be like on the plate. Some lettuces can suck up the acid tang, others amplify, so taste before serving.
Some examples to get you started:
- Three great sherry vinegar-based vinaigrettes by Michael Ruhlman at SimplyRecipes.com
- Warm bacon vinaigrette by SmittenKitchen
- Sriracha-Balsamic Vinaigrette from BakeYourDay
- Asian Orange Ginger Vinaigrette from SteamyKitchen
- A slight variation on Classic French Dijon Vinaigrette with lots of photos by David Lebovitz
Updated July 4, 2016.