This is the recipe for a vinaigrette. It was taught to me by a dear friend and I can hear him telling it to me every time I make it.
A vinaigrette has three basic components: something onion-y – usually shallot or garlic, something acidic – vinegar or citrus juice, and something fatty – think oil or bacon fat. Add salt and pepper, fresh herbs, a bit of dijon mustard if you like, and you’ve got a vinaigrette.
The magic of a vinaigrette is in the emulsion. Your 8th grade science teacher is judging you right now. An emulsion is when you take two liquids that don’t get along and force them to spend some time together. To make an emulsion of oil and vinegar, you whisk them together, breaking the vinegar into small droplets which are surrounded by oil. When you taste a vinaigrette you enjoy the soft, buttery mouthfeel of oil and the wonderful balance of fat and acidity without the sharp sting of vinegar on your tongue.
Let’s talk about dressing your salad. When you hit the grocery store and grab those Romaine hearts, stop by the dressing aisle and grab the biggest bottle of Ranch or Blue Cheese that you can find. Trust me, you don’t want to taste that lettuce. When you grab farm fresh vegetables at the farm market, you want to taste them in balance with your vinaigrette. Dress your salad lightly. A perfectly dressed salad should glisten with vinaigrette and there should be almost none left in the bottom of the bowl when you are done serving.
Make a vinaigrette today. Dress fresh lettuce, arugula or spinach. Sub it in for mayonnaise in your potato salad, or over fresh steamed or sautéed vegetables. Use it to marinade vegetables for the grill. Use it in good health. And enjoy, let it make each simple meal you make – even lunch at the office – a celebration of how special each moment of your life can be.
For Sean Holland.
Use the best ingredients you can find: farm fresh greens, well-balanced vinegars and high quality olive oil.
- 2-3 tbs minced shallot or 1 large clove garlic
- Vinegar or lemon juice
- Dijon mustard
- Olive oil – the good stuff!
The options are limitless. Have fun, be creative and taste often! Think about your ingredients. If you are serving peppery arugula, a low acidity oil with a buttery olive oil is perfect. For sweet summer tomatoes use garlic paste, a grassy Spanish or Greek oil and a complex, aged balsamic vinegar.
- If using garlic, mince it, then mash it into a paste with a pinch of coarse sea salt. If using shallot, add to a bowl with a pinch of salt.
- Chop herbs, if using, finely and add to bowl.
- Add a grind or four of black pepper, 1/4 tsp mustard and 1/4 cup of vinegar to the bowl with the garlic or shallot.
- Let sit while you make the rest of your meal to let the flavors blend.
- Right before serving, whisk in 1/2 cup oil.
- Dip a leaf of your greens in the dressing, taste and correct seasoning and balance of acid/oil.
- Dress lightly.
The classic ratio for a vinaigrette is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil. I like mine a little more acidic.