Salad dressing is somewhat of a hot button for many of us. We either have a little fear of it and keep hitting the bottle (bottled dressing, of course), which is often pretty gross, or we get stuck in a one-dressing rut.
What is Vinaigrette?
First of all, vinaigrette is just French for oil and vinegar. Okay, no, that’s not quite true, but it certainly is partly true and this is helpful in making things much less scary. This basic classic vinaigrette recipe lets you make a classic vinaigrette in two minutes. My family likes their dressing pretty vinegary. If you don’t, use less vinegar. And try adding the minced shallot at least once; I really think (along with the Dijon mustard) it’s what makes a classic vinaigrette a vinaigrette. However, you can for sure add other members of the onion family, and whatever fresh herbs you like.
How to Make Vinaigrette
You do not have to follow the order of adding the ingredients as below, it’s pretty random.
Place 1 or 2 teaspoons mustard in a bowl (you can also use a container with a lid, and shake the dickens out of it, but for the purposes of our step by step photos, we went with the bowl and whisk method! I like Dijon best, but all kinds of mustards will work.
Add some vinegar, about 1/3 to 1/2 a cup. I like my vinaigrette strong, so you may want to start with a bit less.
I like to use a combo of two vinegars, to get different kids of flavors going (see below for more on that).
Add some minced shallots (or onions or garlic).
Season with salt, preferably sea salt or kosher.
Add olive oil, about 1/2 a cup.
Season with pepper.
Whisk away until blended.
What Kind of Vinegar to Use in Vinaigrette?
You can use pretty much any type of vinegar in your vinaigrette that you like. Here’s my favorite very basic vinaigrette tip: Use two different vinegars in your dressing. This creates a very nice kind of layering of flavors and just takes it to a slightly higher level, all for the extra 20 seconds it takes to open a second bottle of vinegar. Some favorite combos: red wine and sherry vinegars; balsamic and red wine vinegars; white wine and unseasoned rice vinegars.
Vinaigrettes are a really nice way to have some fun in the kitchen with your kids that doesn’t involved baking. Mine are endlessly experimenting in the vinaigrette department—it’s like a chemistry project that you can eat.
How to Adjust the Flavors
Finally, vinaigrette is so forgiving. Too oily? Add more vinegar. Too tart? Add more oil. Too bland? Add more salt, or maybe a bit of mustard. Too salty? Add more oil, and maybe some vinegar. When you get your perfect balance you’ll just have a bigger stash of vinaigrette to tuck in the fridge. And again, minced shallots, onions, scallions; herbs like tarragon, basil, oregano and thyme; flavored mustards, all allow you to keep changing things up.
Add any of the following to the rest of the vinaigrette, alone, or in combination.
- 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion, or 1⁄4 teaspoon finely minced garlic, with, or instead of, the optional shallot
- 1⁄2 teaspoon dried herbs, or 1 teaspoon minced fresh herbs—either a single herb or a combination; basil, oregano, thyme, and parsley are some good choices
- 1 teaspoon minced sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon minced black olives
- 1 or 2 tablespoons crumbled or grated cheese, such as goat cheese, feta, blue cheese, or Parmesan
How to Use Vinaigrette
Of course you can use vinaigrettes to dress simple salads made from lettuces. But you can use different vinaigrettes in all kinds of ways, from dressing other grain and vegetables salads, to drizzling over a piece of cooked chicken or fish, to finishing a main dish salad.
You can store it in the refrigerator, in a tightly sealed container, for up to a week. Let the vinaigrette sit out for 10 to 15 minutes to come to room temperature and give it a good shake to mix it again before using.
Classic Vinaigrette (aka Salad Dressing)
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ⅓ to ½ cup vinegar of your choice, such as red wine, white wine, balsamic, unseasoned rice, and cider
- 1 tablespoon finely minced shallot optional
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard or more to taste
- ½ teaspoon kosher or coarse salt or more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Put the olive oil, vinegar(s), shallot, if using, mustard, and salt in a bowl or container with a lid. You can continue with Step 2 or go directly to Step 3.
- See the Fork in the Road suggestions below for seasoning the dressing.
- Whisk the vinaigrette to mix, or cover the container and shake it well. Taste for seasoning, adding more mustard and/or salt if necessary and pepper to taste. Use about 1 teaspoon of dressing per cup of salad.
Fork in the RoadAdd any of the following to the rest of the vinaigrette, alone, or in combination. 1 or 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion, or 1⁄4 teaspoon finely minced garlic, with, or instead of, the optional shallot • 1⁄2 teaspoon dried herbs, or 1 1 teaspoon minced fresh herbs—either a single herb or a combination; basil, oregano, thyme, and parsley are some good choices • 1 teaspoon minced sun-dried tomatoes • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon minced black olives • 1 or 2 tablespoons crumbled or grated cheese, such as goat cheese, feta, blue cheese, or Parmesan
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