Not everyone knows how to cook — but most would like to. I’ll sometimes whip up a vinaigrette at friends’ houses when invited for dinner, and it seems that, more often than not, they say, “Wow! How did you make that? What went in there? The ingredients are in my kitchen?”
So, I thought I would post about a basic meal staple for beginning cooks. Vinaigrette, no sweat!
Contrary to the “standard” measurements for it — which, in my opinion, make the vinaigrette too oily for today’s palate — I prefer to use 1 part vinegar to 2 ½ to 3 parts oil. The vinegar and oil can be any kind. Other essentials are a dollop of Dijon mustard, a big pinch of kosher salt and some pepper.
Those are the fundamentals, and from there you can get creative. Add a pinch of sugar or a drizzle of honey if you like it sweet. Add some garlic, lemon zest and a squeeze of citrus if you wish. Try adding grainy mustard, some chopped fresh herbs or a pinch of ground spice such as cumin or coriander; or some chipotle chili powder and lime juice for a Latin influence.
If Greek is your gig for the evening, then use lemon juice and olive oil, toss in feta cheese, fresh oregano and chopped olives. Italian? Balsamic or red wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil, fresh basil, garlic, a dash of grated parmesan. For an Asian style dressing go with rice wine vinegar, mild flavored canola oil and a dash of sesame oil, along with honey, toasted sesame seeds, fresh ginger and hot chili paste.
You get the picture. Start with the basics and twist them to your taste. I have prepared a handy recipe that you can use as your vinaigrette guide to get you started.
Makes 1 cup
1/4 cup acid (vinegar* or lemon or lime juice)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (use less if adding cheese or olives)
Flavorings as desired***
With a small wire whisk, in a small bowl, whisk together your acid component, Dijon mustard and salt. Then slowly whisk in the oil, adding it in a thin drizzle. This technique is to emulsify (make smooth and combined) your dressing. Then add your flavoring components.
* Any of the following vinegars: cider, balsamic, red-wine, white-wine, rice-wine
** Any of the following or a combination: Mild-tasting vegetable oil (canola, olive, extra-virgin olive); nut oils such as hazelnut or walnut (do not use nut oils for more than half of total oil)
*** Any of the following or a combination:
Black pepper, pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon grated lemon, lime or orange zest (colored part only — no white pith)
1 tablespoon chopped mild fresh herbs (basil, tarragon, chives, oregano, cilantro)
1 ½ teaspoons chopped strong fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, marjoram)
2 to 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese,crumbled blue cheese or feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes or roasted peppers
2 to 3 teaspoons finely minced fresh garlic
2 to 3 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon finely minced shallots
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
1 teaspoon hot chili paste or hot sauce
Chef’s Notes: You can keep the vinaigrette refrigerated for up to two weeks. Whisk up well before each use, and toss with your favorite greens. Experiment with different flavorings and combinations for your vinaigrette. Also, try out various greens and salad additions, such as nuts, fruits, cheeses, meats and seafood.
Copyright 2007, Kathy Casey Food Studios