It’s the recipe for a vinaigrette.
A vinaigrette has three basic components: something onion-y – usually shallot or garlic, something acidic – vinegar or citrus juice, and something fatty – like olive oil, grape seed 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. An emulsion is when you take two liquids that don’t particularly like each other, and force them to hang out together. To make an emulsion of oil and vinegar, you whisk the vinegar, while drizzling in the oil, breaking the vinegar into tiny droplets that are coated with the olive oil. By doing this you enjoy the soft buttery mouthfeel of the oil with a bright burst of acidity inside, without the sharp bite of vinegar or lemon juice on your tongue.
Let’s talk about dressing your salad. When you hit the grocery store and grab those Romaine hearts – you know the ones that have been stabilized to sit on the shelf looking good for 2-3 weeks, but taste terrible? – you don’t want to taste those. Stop by the dressing aisle and grab the biggest bottle of Ranch or Blue Cheese that you can find and douse the Romaine hearts to cover up the taste.
However, 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 just 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
- Coarse salt – kosher and sea are both good
- 2 tbs fresh herbs, optional
- Fresh cracked pepper
- 1/3 cup vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard or honey
- 2/3 cup 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, then add to a bowl. If using minced shallot, add it directly to the bowl with a pinch of salt.
- If using fresh herbs, finely chop herbs and add to bowl.
- Add a grind or four of black pepper, mustard and 1/3 cup of vinegar to the bowl containing the garlic or shallot.
- If you have time, let the vinaigrette rest for 10-15 minutes while flavors blend.
- While whisking, drizzle the olive oil into the vinegar forming a thick, creamy emulsion.
- Dip a leaf of your greens in the dressing, taste and correct seasoning and balance of acid/oil.
- Dress your fresh greens lightly.
The classic ratio for a vinaigrette is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil. I like mine a little more acidic.