Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ruminations on Homemade Vinaigrettes

When spring starts moving in, I start dining on fresher, lighter fare.  Whether that's my subconscious realization that swimsuit season is approaching or some other reaction to the spring weather, the other night all I could think about was eating a delicious salad. 

Homemade vinaigrettes are insanely easy to make and really tasty.   Once you know the basic combinations, it's really easy to play around with the recipe to get the flavors you want.  All you need are these three things: mustard, vinegar, and oil.  Just combine about one tbls of mustard and 1 tbls of vinegar.  Whisk it together with a fork and add some salt and pepper.  Then while you're still whisking, add in the oil slowly until it emulsifies (or comes together).  It'll be about 2-3 tbls. of oil.  This will make you enough dressing for about 2-3 servings, depending on how heavy you like your salad dressed.

Beyond that, you can really add whatever you want!  Garlic, shallots, green onions, herbs, or spices.  You can change up the vinegar and use balsamic, cider, champagne, and you can also add some freshly squeezed fruit juices or flavored oils.  You can even use different bases for the emulsion -- honey mustard, dijon mustard, or even jams and marmalades.  Even honey can work, depending on the taste you're looking for.  Don't be afraid to try out your own combination.  The worst that will happen is you're out 5 minutes and a couple spoonfuls of oil!  Play around with this basic formula you'll be surprised at how easy it is to make your own, amazing dressing. 

Here are two examples to get you started: 

salad with berry vinaigrette

Berry Vinaigrette
1 tbls berry jam or marmalade (I used strawberry)
1 tbls balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, minced
Salt and pepper
~3 tbls extra virgin olive oil

Combine the jam, vinegar, shallot, and salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Then with a fork or small whisk, whisk in the olive oil until it all comes together at the consistency you desire.  3 tbls should be about right.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If it's too sweet, add a dash of the vinegar or some pepper. 

This dressing goes perfectly with some mixed greens, raspberries, and blue cheese or goat cheese crumbles.  This will make about 2-3 servings.

Mustard Grain Vinaigrette
1 tbls whole grain mustard
1 tbls apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
1 clove pasted garlic (chop fine with salt or grate using microplane)
1 minced shallot
salt and pepper
2 - 2 1/2 tbls olive oil

Combine all of the ingredients same as in the previous recipe and then whisk in the oil.  This vinaigrette goes very well with a classic green salad.  Throw together some baby spinach leaves, grated carrot, and quarters of hardboiled eggs and you've got yourself a delicious side salad.

The moral of this rumination: don't be scared to make your own dressing!  It's fun and easy.  As I develop more of these I'll post them on my blog.  And feel free to post your own creations here so we can all learn from each other's success!

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