The arrival of spring marks the beginning of salad season. With salads in bountiful supply on the dinner table, it is imperative that you have a great vinaigrette formula in your recipe arsenal.
A basic oil-and-vinegar combination most commonly used to dress salads can also be a rock-star marinade and dressing on grilled or steamed vegetables. The recipes can be very simple or include many ingredients — you get to select what works best with what you have on hand.
“Vinaigrette” is derived from the French word for vinegar. One thing you can count on with a vinaigrette recipe is that the ratio of oil to vinegar (or another acid such as lemon juice) is 3-to-1. Vinegar is 95 percent water, and since we all know that oil and water do not mix, it is important to form a complete emulsion when preparing a vinaigrette at home.
Classically trained French chefs will almost always advise you to use a whisk to create the best emulsion. In our home, the best way to create a lasting emulsion is to place the ingredients into a jelly jar and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Make sure to taste your vinaigrette and adjust seasonings if necessary. Many vinaigrettes include spices, shallots, fresh herbs, mustard and lemon zest. Allow about 4 tablespoons of vinaigrette for 8 cups of tender greens.
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You should never ever need to buy store-bought vinaigrette again. It is far too easy to create your own signature dressing.
Here is a favorite vinaigrette recipe for you to try:
2 teaspoons finely minced shallot (optional)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Generous pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (use to taste)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Additional sea salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients except additional sea salt and pepper to taste in a small 12-ounce canning or jelly jar. Place the lid on the jar securely and shake vigorously for 30 to 40 seconds to form an emulsion.
This is great served on Bibb, butter or romaine lettuce that has been washed and dried well and then torn into bite-size pieces.
Store any leftover vinaigrette in the refrigerator.
Roxanne Wyss is one of two cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. Her most recent cookbook is “The Newlywed Cookbook, Cooking Happily Ever After.” She develops the recipes for the Eating for Life column for The Kansas City Star and is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier. She blogs at pluggedintocooking.com