Knowing how to make a variety of vinaigrettes is a skill every cook should have. Why? Because it is simple and saves money.
And vinaigrettes are not just for salad greens. You can drizzle them on fresh cooked vegetables or grilled chicken or fish.
A vinaigrette consists of three parts oil to one part vinegar (or other acid) along with salt and pepper.
Once you have that down, you can experiment with different vinegars, oils and seasonings.
Mary Spencer, a culinary instructor, prefers to make her own vinaigrette because she can control the quality of the ingredients.
"It's using good quality vinegars, some quality olive oils," said Spencer.
To bring the dressing together, use an emulsifier such as Dijon, which "gives it a little tang," she said.
Another tip: Spencer recommends making the vinaigrette in the bottom of the salad bowl and then adding salad greens and other ingredients and tossing them with the vinaigrette.
"You want enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the leaves," Spencer said.
"I think when you use something that is ready-made you squirt it on and sometimes you over do it," she added. "Making your own just tastes so much better."
Mix and Match
Vinaigrettes are generally three parts oil to one part vinegar. So, to make about 1 cup vinaigrette you will need ¾ cup oil and ¼ cup vinegar or other acidic liquid. Exact amounts vary from recipe to recipe; the key is to adjust ingredients to taste. Here are some tips and a list of essential ingredients:
Have all the ingredients at room temperature so vinaigrette emulsifies more easily.
While whisking, drizzle the olive oil in slowly and in a steady stream. The mixture should slowly come together, emulsify and look creamy.
Make vinaigrettes up to three days in advance and refrigerate. When you make the salad, place the greens in a bowl and add the vinaigrette a few tablespoons at a time so it just coats the greens.
Use good quality fruity or mild olive oil, canola oil, grapeseed or nut oils such as walnut.
For the vinegars or acids, use balsamic (white or dark), champagne, apple cider vinegar, fresh lemon or lime juice, fruit varieties (such as cranberry, pear or raspberry), orange juice, red or white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, rice (seasoned or unseasoned) for an Asian spin or plain white vinegar.
Season with salt and pepper, Dijon mustard, fresh or dried herbs, minced garlic, minced ginger, honey, lemon or lime zest, chopped nuts, soy sauce, minced shallots and sugar.
Basic Dijon vinaigrette
Makes 2/3 cup, more than enough for dressing 8 side salads
1 tablespoon finely minced shallots
½ to 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
½ to 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
1/3 to ½ cup good quality olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Fresh chopped herbs, if desired
In a small bowl, stir together the shallots, Dijon and salt. Whisk in the lemon juice and vinegar until blended. When well blended, start whisking in the oil, in a steady stream until it forms a smooth emulsion. Taste and adjust seasonings. Finish with a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and herbs, if using.
This recipe is from Susan M. Selasky
Per serving: 59 calories; 0 protein; 0 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams fat (1 saturated); 0 milligrams cholesterol; 62 milligrams sodium; 0 grams fiber; 97 percent calories from fat.
Tomato caesar salad with bacon-parmesan crisps
2 slices cooked, crisp, thick-cut bacon
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1½ teaspoons all-purpose flour
4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus for drizzling
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
5 medium or large heirloom tomatoes, sliced crosswise ½-inch thick
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Baby arugula or watercress, for topping
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Finely chop the cooked bacon.
In a small bowl, mix together the bacon, ½ cup Parmesan and flour. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the bacon-cheese mixture into four mounds on baking sheet and flatten them into 3½-inch rounds. Bake until golden brown and the cheese melts, about seven to eight minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet five minutes, then transfer to a rack using a thin spatula and let cool completely.
To make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk the anchovies, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and the remaining 3 tablespoons of cheese.
Arrange the tomatoes on a platter, sprinkling each layer with salt, pepper and some of the vinaigrette. Scatter the watercress on top and drizzle with olive oil. Break the crisps into bite-size pieces and add to the salad.
This recipe is adapted from Food Network magazine, September 2012 issue.
Per serving: 130 calories; 7 grams protein; 8 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams fat (3 saturated); 12 milligrams cholesterol; 532 milligrams sodium; 2 grams fiber; 58 percent calories from fat.
50 shades of greens salad
3 tablespoons good quality olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons honey
Big pinch of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large head Boston lettuce, largest outer leaves and damaged leaves removed; rest washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
¾ cup loosely packed mix of fresh flat and curly parsley leaves
1 small bunch frisée, in pieces
1 cup arugula leaves
2 to 3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 small ripe but firm avocado
In a small bowl, combine all the vinaigrette ingredients and whisk until thoroughly emulsified.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the lettuce, parsley, frisée, arugula and green onions. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Evenly divide the salad greens onto four salad plates.
Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Scoop out the flesh in one piece. Slice each half crosswise in thin half-moons. Drizzle the avocado with a bit of the vinaigrette and then arrange several slices on each salad. Add another drizzling of vinaigrette, if desired, over each salad.
This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking magazine 2005.
Per serving: 200 calories; 4 grams protein; 12 grams carbohydrates; 17 grams fat (3 saturated); 0 milligrams cholesterol; 130 milligrams sodium; 8 grams fiber; 77 percent calories from fat.