I admit that, on occasion, I let Paul Newman or Brianna into my kitchen. Before I realized how easy it is to make my own vinaigrettes, their bottled selves were regular guests at our dinner table. Then I learned the three to one (oil to acid) rule and started playing with a variety of oils, vinegars, herbs, and spices. I learned that vinaigrettes can be made quickly and without all of the preservatives found in store-bought varieties. Whether you want an Asian flare with a miso dressing or a slightly sweet version to balance the saltiness of the bacon in a BLT Pasta Salad, this tutorial will walk you through the simple steps to make fresh, flavorful vinaigrettes. Scroll down to find the recipe for our favorite balsamic vinaigrette.
This step-by-step tutorial is part of my weekly how-to series.
The most common oil used in vinaigrettes is olive oil. Considering that this is the most prominent ingredient, be sure to choose a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil. In vinaigrettes that feature Asian or other strong flavors, use a neutral oil such as grapeseed, safflower, or canola. Nut and seed oils (e.g., sesame and walnut) can lend distinctive flavors. To avoid overpowering the other ingredients, these oils can be combined with a neutral-flavored oil
The acid is the ingredient that packs the biggest punch in any vinaigrette. There are a wide variety of vinegars available. Everything from balsamic and port vinegars to red and white wine vinegars can change the flavor profile of the dressing. However, you are not limited to vinegars. Citrus fruits, such as orange, lemon and lime, add a bright note to any summer salad.
While wonderful vinaigrettes can be made by simply combining an acid, oil, and seasonings, a more stable emulsification can be achieved by adding binders. To stop the emulsification from separating, add mustard, honey, miso or an egg yolk to the vinegar mixture before whisking in the oil.
To change the flavor profile further, season the vinaigrette with onions, shallots, garlic, herbs, pepper, or any number of dried spices (cumin, paprika, etc.)
How to do it:
In general, if you follow the rule of three parts oil to one part acid, you will be rewarded with a well-balanced vinaigrette.
In a bowl, whisk together your choice of acid, binder (optional), herbs, and other flavors, including salt and pepper.
Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the oil until emulsification forms. If you did not use a binder, you will need to re-whisk the vinaigrette prior to serving.
Vinaigrettes can also be made in a blender or a lidded jar (shake well).
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Our Favorite Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/2 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp plus 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
In a medium bowl, whisk together shallot, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in olive oil until emulsification forms.
Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container. Bring to room temperature and whisk again before using.