When I first moved to France, I realized that I was in trouble when it came to salads. Yes, the grocery stores and markets had great salad ingredients. Yes, salads were everywhere. But at the same time, bottled salad dressings in France were terrible. I had grown up with the bottle and couldn't figure out what to do...until I realized that I could actually make my own! And it would be a thousand times better than the bottle! Ever since that realization, I have (mostly) made my own salad dressings. The great thing about the homemade version is that it has endless possibilities: herbs or none, mustard or no, tangier with more vinegar or smoother with more oil--you get to decide.
Take the vinaigrette I made for my poached egg salad I posted about last week. The egg yolk added a delectable creaminess to the salad, so I decided to go with a more tart version of a basic vinaigrette by adding a little more acid. And that's something you can't do with the bottle in your fridge.
So how do you make a vinaigrette? It's easy! It really comes down to the ratio of oil to acid (vinegar, lemon juice, etc.) and personal flavor preferences. The common ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid. When you're first starting out on the path to homemade vinaigrettes, I would stick to a good extra virgin olive oil and basic vinegars. My favorite vinegars are balsamic and red wine because they're milder, but once you get going, start playing with your acids and oils to create different flavors.
If you want your vinaigrette to remain emulsified (or all mixed up), then you'll want to add an emulsifier. (There's a chemical explanation about how this happens, but we won't go into the details right now.) The most common for vinaigrettes is mustard (dijon or whole-grain works great) or honey. Salt and pepper are essential, and then the rest is up to you. So let's get started!
- For a regular, family-sized salad, start by pouring about one ounce (about 1/8 cup) of your vinegar into a bowl or a handy-dandy salad dressing shaker. Add a little salt--start with about 1/8 teaspoon--and some freshly-ground pepper. I typically use mustard with most vinegars except for balsamic. If you're using balsamic, mix and skip to the next step. Other vinegars benefit from a little bit of mustard. Add about 1/2-1 teaspoon of dijon mustard. (For me, this is a flavor thing. I prefer less mustard, so stick to about 1/2 teaspoon, but you might like more, so play with it!) Whisk or shake these ingredients together.
- Pour in about three ounces of oil (1/4 + 1/8 cup). Extra virgin olive oil is my go-to oil, but feel free to experiment! Whisk or shake it to combine.
- Now, this is the most important part...taste it! Stick that finger in there and give it a lick. What does it need? More salt? Add a little! Some herbs? Add some! Too tart? Add a little more oil! You get the idea. Here's where you can play with the flavors.
- Now pour on your salad, toss, and enjoy! (You can store your vinaigrette in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about a week. Sometimes the oils can solidify, so if that happens, just take your vinaigrette out of the refrigerator about an hour before using it.)
Now, if you've noticed, in the pictures I have a beautiful little OXO Salad Dressing Shaker. OXO was kind enough to send one to me to try out and another to give away to a lucky reader! Now, typically, I use a bowl and a whisk because I'm at the point where I don't need to measure anymore, but I do use this shaker quite often as well. I had an old Tupperware one, but the opening was too small, so whenever I used shallots or other chunkier ingredients, they always got stuck while pouring. This shaker, though, has a great wide opening, and so far, nothing has ever gotten stuck in it. It's also pretty leakproof--I even let my two year old "help" me cook by shaking the salad dressing, and nothing ever leaked out. And finally, my favorite part about this is that, as opposed to my bowl and whisk method, I can make this and then easily store it in my fridge for later use. When I use this shaker, I'll double or triple the recipe to use throughout the week. I think the only drawback is that I taste often while making vinaigrettes, and when you twist off the lid, the dressing can run down the sides a bit. Nothing a paper towel can't fix, though!
So, on to how to enter! Just follow the directions below. The first one is mandatory, but the others are optional extra entries...just don't forget to comment for each entry!
- Leave a comment on this post. Feel free to share your favorite homemade salad dressing, tell me about problems you've had in the past making your own, or just tell me hi! :-) (mandatory)
- "Like" The World in My Kitchen on Facebook and come back here to let me know. (If you are already a fan, just say so in the comments below.) (optional)
- Subscribe to The World in My Kitchen in an RSS feeder. (Make sure to come back here to let me know that you did this!) (optional)
- Follow me on Twitter and retweet this post. (Make sure to come back here to let me know that you did this!) (optional)
- "Like" OXO on Facebook and come back here to let me know. (optional)
**This contest is open to those with a U.S. address.
Disclosure: This product was sent to me for review purposes. I was not required to post about it and received no compensation for doing so.
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