The three most popular salad dressings in the United States are ranch, blue cheese and Italian. This isn't exactly a knock-your-socks-off statement. Many restaurants offer these as choices for their side salads and there are countless bottled salad dressings that are variations on the same themes.
So why do I bring it up? Because it reminds me that making your own dressing at home is so simple, and yet millions of people still buy their dressing in a bottle. Why go to all the trouble to bring home fresh greens, maybe some nice tomatoes and onions and cucumbers and other goodies, and then add a highly processed dressing? Making it from scratch is so simple and so much better tasting.
Enter the vinaigrette. It's salad dressing at its most basic. It's got a little vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Sometimes I add a touch of Dijon mustard to hold it together and a little chopped shallot or onion for zing. To this mixture add a pinch each of dried parsley, basil and oregano and your vinaigrette becomes Italian dressing.
I make my vinaigrette with the following ratio: 1 part vinegar to 3 parts extra virgin olive oil. If you like your dressing more acidic, add a little more vinegar. I keep 3 vinegars on hand all the time: red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar. I like the Colavita brand of vinegars - they are readily available and affordable. Keep them in a cool, dark cupboard and they'll last for months.
I use the white wine vinegar when I'm making fish or want a really light, fresh tasting salad. Red wine vinegar is a little more robust and goes well with hearty tomatoes and comfort food. Balsamic vinegar is a perfect match with pungent cheeses; if you like to add blue cheese or goat cheese to your salad, choose the balsamic for your vinaigrette.
The only rule for making vinaigrette is to always, always, ALWAYS... add the olive oil last, drizzling it in a slow steady stream while whisking. This method helps to emulsify the oil and vinegar, or bring them together in a smooth sauce.
Try the foodell.com basic Vinaigrette recipe and let me know what you think. (Note: The recipe makes a lot - feel free to halve the recipe or just keep the extra in the refrigerator for a few days and use it for all of your salads during the week.)
And if you haven't already seen it, be sure to watch the short video, Vinaigrette Salad Dressing. You'll be whisking your way to better salad dressing in no time!