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Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
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Bottled vinaigrette salad dressing is great to have on hand to add to a vegetable salad, pasta salad or even for marinating chicken. But knowing how to make your own vinaigrette is a lot less complicated than you would think.

At its most basic level, vinaigrette is just a combination of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Adding mustard is the secret ingredient that will help bind (emulsify) everything together.

To make a basic vinaigrette you need to combine:

  • 1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup of vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • A few grinds of fresh pepper

Mix these four ingredients together and then slowly add:

  • ¾ cup of olive oil

This will make enough for about 6 servings of salad dressing. As long as you haven’t added any fresh herbs, it should keep for about 3 weeks, stored in a jar in the refrigerator. (You will need to give it a good shake before you use it!)

The Equipment

As a first step, you have to decide how you want to go about blending these ingredients together. You could use a bowl and a whisk, a jar, or a blender.

The (clean!) jar method is probably the simplest. Put the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a jar and just shake it up. Add the oil in 3 stages and shake it well after each addition. This will help it stay blended together.

The blender method is basically the same. Put the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in the blender and mix it up really well. Then drizzle in the oil in a slow steady stream. You can remove the inner plug on the blender cover to drizzle in the oil. Some blenders will “spit” back at you when you remove the inner plug. You may have to hold your other hand over the hole leaving just a tiny space open to drizzle in the oil.

If you are making vinaigrette in a bowl with a whisk, you need to make sure the bowl doesn’t slide all over the counter top while you are slowly adding the oil. Unless you have three hands, the solution is to make a collar for the bowl out of a dish towel. Fold a damp dish towel into a log and then into a circle. Sit the bowl on the top of the circle to hold it steady.

Now one hand can hold the whisk while the other hand drizzles in the oil!

The Ingredients

The Mustard: use a nice – preferably French – mustard. A grainy mustard would work just fine as well. (Bright yellow mustard, which is great on Hot Dogs, would work but not taste as good as a French mustard.)

The Vinegar: Red wine vinegar would be the classic choice. You could also try fruit vinegars or herb-infused vinegar. White vinegar would give your vinaigrette too harsh of a flavor. Malt vinegar is never used for a vinaigrette. You can substitute lemon, lime or orange juice for the vinegar.

The Oil: Olive oil would be the preferred choice.

Many people add shallots, dried or fresh herbs, and even poppy seeds to their vinaigrette. Just remember that if you have added shallots or fresh herbs your vinaigrette should be used with in a few days of making it. Cheers!

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will said:

Kathy, I always do it on the fly.

usually for one salad for 4 people (in my family) 1 TB vinegar, and 3 TBs of oil. 1/4 teaspon of mustard, salt and pepper.

We just mix it right in the bowl, and then here’s the trick all people growing up in french households do:

you place the dressing right into the bottom of the salad bowl and mix it up. place the salad spoons in a big cross in the bowl,and then place the leaves on the salad spoons and any small chopped stuff on the top. this way they float until they are mixed together with the dressing, preventing the salad from going soggy until ready to be eaten.

cheers !

Kathy Maister said:

FANTASTIC tip! The dressing on the bottom of the bowl is also a great idea if you are bringing a salad to work for lunch. Give it a toss just before eating and the veggies to stay crisp and delicious. Thanks for the great tip Will!

will said:

Usually since I bike to work; If I bring a salad, it’s pretty much mixed by the time I get there, wit hall the bumps and all, so in that case I just shove a bottle of dressing in a bag, in case it spills, and add it to the lunchbox. But I am like super into putting the the dressing JUST before I eat it; it’s a bit of a food obsession for me :)

Another thing I love about simple oil vinegar dressing, is that one can always add a tablespoon of mayonaise to make it creamy. sometimes it also needs like a 1/2 tsp of water if it’s too thick.

I like to add tarragon as an herb, especially the dried kind.

Kathy Maister said:

Oh please Will, anything BUT tarragon! It’s the one and only herb I don’t like!

will said:

tell you what, I’ll give you my fennel and you can give me your tarragon :)

mira said:

why is it necessary to shake an oil and vinegar salad dressing before adding it to the salad?

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Mira,
Shaking the dressing helps to keep it blended so that it spreads evenly over the salad and does not separate.

Laurie Wiginton said:

I liked reading everyones comments… here is my tip. When I have a party when I am serving salad I use small clear punch glasses. I put the dressing in the bottom of the glass and then top with my favorite greens than then sliced strawberries, slivered almonds and cheese. I then put a small plate on top to cover the glass. When ready to serve my guest take both the glass and the plate. They flip the whole thing up side down and wal – lah salad that is not drenched and soggy. I prefer a raspberry vinaigrette

Kathy Maister said:

Great tip Laurie!
When entertaining it is so much easier to get as much as possible prepared in advance so that you can enjoy your guests!

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