How-To: Fantastic Vinaigrettes

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Vinaigrettes6 My mom always served salad with dinner when I was younger; usually something simple.  She and I never had too much trouble scarfing down our fair share.  My Dad on the other hand, would always comment that “this grass is growing on my plate.  I’m not finishing all of this.”  It makes me laugh thinking about it.  He’d sit there with this semi-guilty face and push his salad around on his dinner plate-like that counted as eating it.

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Unfortunately, my dad is not the only person that doesn’t jump for joy over a massive bowl of leaves.  Salad has unfortunately gotten a bad wrap over the years.  Boring lettuce, a few tomatoes, maybe some sliced cucumber with a flavorless dressing.  Not tasty.  Even I get caught up in this thinking sometimes-opting for a sandwich or something more tempting.  But when a salad is carefully crafted, sprinkled with delicious toppings and tossed with a wonderfully flavor-filled dressing, you got yourself not only a salad but a delicious meal!
Vinaigrettes3 Besides the endless toppings you can add (my favorite being toasted walnuts, goat cheese and artichokes), I find that the dressing really can take a salad from mediocre to phenomenal.  I could have a salad covered in goat cheese, but if it has a boring dressing, the whole salad ends up pretty blah.  To remedy this, I’ve come up with a few tips and a bunch of dressings that can help you elevate your salads to new levels…  Maybe even want to make them a few times a week!
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To get started on a fantastic vinaigrette, begin by thinking about your favorite flavors and the type of salad you want to make.  Then try out some of my tips to help you create the perfect vinaigrette!

  • Pair your acids.  There are two main parts to a vinaigrette, the oil and the acid.  The acid comes in the form of vinegar or citrus juice.  I think the best vinaigrettes use two types of acid – like lemon juice and white wine vinegar.  It adds a complexity to the dressing and a great flavor.
  • Emulsify.  This is a technical term for making oil and water (or in our case an acid) stick together and not separate.  You can use mustard, mayonnaise or even an egg yolk.  No matter what you choose, its important to add one of these.  It helps to ensure that the dressing components coat the salad greens evenly.  Without it you can get some really tart bites, some with just oil, etc.  We don’t want that!
  • Stock your pantry.  This really helps to make sure you don’t end up making the same old dressing every time you have a salad.  Keep a few types of vinegar (apple cider, white wine, red wine or balsamic), citrus fruits (lemon, limes and oranges) and oils (olive oil, canola oil, chili oil, nut oils) so you can create any flavor combination you want!
  • Take a time out.  In my opinion, if you let a dressing sit for an hour (or overnight if you think ahead) it allows all the flavors to mingle, hang out and just get extra tasty!  Store in the fridge while you wait.
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Need some vinaigrette ideas to get you started?  I’ve got a whole list of some of my top favorite salad dressings.  I hope you try a few out or change them up to suit your tastes.  Enjoy!

 

You tell me!  What’s your favorite salad dressing?  Do you like salads, or do you think they’re rabbit food?  What’s your favorite salad topper?

 

1 Comment

  1. Kare @ Kitchen Treaty

    April 11, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Love this! Such great tips for making terrific dressings for salad. It’s so easy to make them at home, and they taste so, so much better than store-bought. Thanks!

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