How To: Make Vinaigrette
Hello again! I have returned after a long vacation, international travel (we went to Canada), and some life changing events! I should probably let you all know that my husband and I are expecting baby #3 next spring, just in case you wonder why the food I am cooking might be a little random. If I post a recipe for garlic ice cream in February, now you know why. Also, I can pretty much guarantee some future posts about homemade baby food!
So thank you for your patience! With the exception of some nausea that may interrupt the regularity of my recipe posting, food will once again come at you more frequently. Just in time too! We are officially at the start of my favorite season-FALL! Even if the 50 degree day today didn’t convince me of it, the acorns hitting my roof like hail would definitely clue me in! I am positively giddy with all the recipes I want to test, create, and make again to share with all of you! Spices, roasting meats, baked fruit concoctions, pastas, and of course, holiday food! Just in case you are cringing at the future calorie total of all this food, don’t be alarmed yet. While I can guarantee that there will be dishes and desserts that are definitely…well…indulgent-i.e. Farmer’s Pasta with four cheeses will make you absolutely swoon!-I just don’t cook that way all the time. There will be plenty of food that won’t weigh you down during the chilly months!As for today’s recipe, making homemade salad dressing is one of those things that I think people are kind of scared of! Am I right? Years ago, when I was younger, thinner, and less wise, I sent a summer working in a fine dining restaurant. I was a daytime sous (prep) chef and spent my mornings making salads and cassoulet, peeling 5 gallon buckets of onions, sneaking tastes of the chocolate ganache, whipping up chutneys and sauces, cleaning calamari, peeling and deveining shrimp, roasting insane amounts of garlic potatoes, tackling a plethora of other tasks….and making salad dressings. When I was first given a stack of secret recipes and told to “make these” I wasn’t too alarmed. The top of the list was a ranch-style dressing and then a bleu cheese. Mmmm…bleu cheese dressing. I had sort of thrown those together before so no surprise there. But the third recipe in the pile was French. I just stared at it and blinked. Homemade French dressing? Seriously? Did people really make this stuff themselves? Apparently they did! I skimmed the recipe, wondering what all went into French dressing other than something red and obviously some sugar. Thirty minutes later with my half dozen bowls of homemade dressings, I was totally converted. Made from scratch dressing, French or otherwise, was absolutely fantastic. It made a big impression on me and even though I do not currently have a fridge full of my own dressing creations, there are a few that I rarely purchase. A vinaigrette is one of them. It literally takes just seconds to make and can be thrown together in the exact quantity you need. Fresh and fantastic every time with only a few pantry ingredients needed.
These cooler temperatures are producing another round of fresh garden greens and radishes. If you wonder about the sudden reappearance of lettuce at your Farmer’s Market, it is because most greens thrive in chilly weather. This is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of this spring vegetable! It won’t be back for long! A simple vinaigrette on tender greens, thinly sliced apple or pear, maybe some purple onion, some toasted pecans or walnuts, and a handful of dried cranberries make a perfect fall salad. Healthy, beautiful, and with a bit of roast chicken or bacon and crumbled bleu cheese, a satisfying supper. Light and easy, it will help off set the affects of that four cheese pasta I was telling you about. But we will worry about that later!! One Year Ago: Good Lookin’ Man Potatoes
This recipe is really just a method, as most of my How To recipes are. As long as you have a fat (olive oil) and an acid (vinegar or citrus juice) you can’t go wrong. Although I personally never make one with out a sweetener. I just love that whole sweet and sour combination!
I don’t really ever measure, but just in case you need a point of reference, I have tried to include measurements, or at least ratios, to give you a jumping off point. Feel free to alter as your tastes determine. Start off with the large bowl you are actually going to serve the salad in. Directly into the bottom of the bowl, add about 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. This is totally optional. I like the flavor it adds and the mustard will allow your dressing to emulsify, but it can easily be skipped. Please note that if you don’t like mustard, you don’t really actually taste it in here. Next add your sweetener at about 2-1 or 3-1. So if you add 1 tsp of mustard, drizzle in 2 tsp or even 1 T of honey. Whisk together in the bottom of the bowl. Next add your acid. In this case, red wine vinegar. Any good vinegar or citrus juice will do. About 2 tablespoons. Whisk it all well. Finally, your fat. Extra virgin olive oil is perfect because you will taste the fruity flavor of it in this dressing. You need about 1/4 of a cup. Fat to acid is about 2-1, but add more vinegar if you like the tangy taste. Whisk it all well. Season with salt and pepper and then taste it.
If it is too creamy, add a few more drops of vinegar. If it is too sour, add just a bit more honey. Tweak it just how you want, but use small incerments. I like to do a final taste on an actual piece of lettuce. Then I know just how the flavor will be when I serve it. And you are done!! This whole bowl can set out on the counter for several hours until you need it. Just add the lettuce to the bowl and toss it together. This is enough dressing to lightly dress a 6-8 oz package of greens. Don’t forget that this vinaigrette is so easy to change. Use a citrus juice instead of vinegar. Try maple syrup and balsamic vinegar in place of the honey and red wine vinegar. Also, feel free to triple the amounts and store in the fridge to use for several weeks. Just remember to use a light hand at first. You can always add more if you need to!