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Monday, June 21, 2004

Recipe File: Basic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

A flavorful salad dressing can be easily made by combining some simple ingredients together. I usually start with 2 parts oil and 1 part vinegar in my vinaigrette dressings. The oil and vinegar can be combined with a blender, food processor, whisk, or jar. In the end it really doesn't matter how you choose to combine the oil and vinegar so long as we get an emulsion (where the vinegar is finely seperated and suspended in the oil).

Blender and food processor:
Start with the vinegar and any herbs & spices you want in the blender or processor. Blend briefly. Dribble in oil while blending until all of the oil is in the mixture. (I should mention that although several recipes call for using a food processor, I would prefer to do make the sauce in a bar blender. Often, it is harder to clean the food processor than a blender when dealing with extremely liquid foods.)

Start with the vinegar and any herbs & spices you want in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the oil one tablespoon at a time for about half of the oil. Then whisk in the rest two to three tablespoons at a time.

Jar (my favorite):
Start with the vinegar and any herbs & spices you want in a jar. Pour in one tablespoon of oil. Screw lid back on jar and shake vigorously. Continue pouring in oil and shaking until half the oil has been integrated. Continue by pouring two or three tablespoons at a time.

After the dressing is made, you can safely store it in the refrigerater for about two weeks.

Basic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
1 cup extra virgin olive oilblend together slowly
1/2 cup basalmic vinegarcombine
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. rosemary, crushed

You'll notice that my recipe calls for 3 cloves of pressed garlic. Now, I don't believe in garlic presses because I don't want to pay $12 - $15 for a garlic press that is only useful when I need pulverized garlic. Instead, I use a Microplane Zester which also zests and grates when it's not pulverizing garlic (or ginger).

By the way, never use a garlic press for mincing garlic, because it doesn't.

posted by Michael Chu @ 6/21/2004 05:28:29 PM   12 comments
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At 11:20 PM, Anonymous said...

Start with the oil first. You can make it in a bowl with a fork. A touch of salt to conteract the sweetness of a good balsamic vin., and don't forget the thinely sliced shallots.

For a touch of flavor crumble a good blue cheese about 30 minutes before serving. It'll absorb the dark color of the balsamic and even ppl. who hate blue cheese will ask you what your secret is.

At 6:11 AM, Anonymous said...

Nope, do _not_ start with oil, always start with vinegar. Add to this the salt and watch the salt dissolve in the vinegar (stir a bit if you want).

If you start with oil, your salt will never be as finely dissolved, making the vinaigrette less tasty.

Just a simple tip I was once told by a grand chef.

At 8:30 AM, Anonymous said...

Definitely do not start with the oil. Start with the acids, add your other flavorings, then slowly encorporate the oil at the end. Otherwise it won't emulsify properly and your dressing won't be as smooth as it could.

About garlic, I don't like garlic presses either. Mostly because they're a real pain to clean. I find the simplest way to get the same effect is to lay the garlic on a cutting board, place the flat side of a broad knife on it with one hand, and give it a good whack with your other hand. The garlic is smashed flat in the blink of an eye. You may need to mince the flattened garlic a bit to break it up.

At 9:26 AM, Anonymous said...

This might be an excellent vinaigrette variant, but there is nothing basic about it. A really basic french vinaigrette uses plain wine vinegar (not balsamic) and no herbs or garlic. Salt and pepper are allowed though. It is very common to flavor it with Dijon mustard (and I recommend it), but I guess one could argue that that too is no longer truly basic, as it is not always used.

Balsamic vinegar is sweet, and you should only use it if you actually want that sweetness; it is not automatically "better" than regular wine vinegar for all uses.

At 10:50 AM, Anonymous said...

For emulsifying, I usually use a touch of mustard... It makes the oil and vinegar mix together much easier. The recipes I usually use involve 3tbsp of oil for 1tbsp of vinegar, and one teaspoon of dijon mustard (or plain mustard, or mustard powder but not as good)... Add some garlic and herbs, and voila. Mixing doesn't involve any mechanical means (a whip in a bowl). Fewer dishes to do in the end :D

At 3:31 AM, Martin said...

re: pressing garlic
I use a fork to press the garlic. I was told it woul be good first to put salt on to the carving board because it absorbs the essential oils of the garlic, so you don't loose them by pressing the garlic.

At 9:59 AM, Seamus said...

A bit late on the comment, but I just found this site. What a joy.

Anyway, I love replacing part of the balsamic with rice wine vinegar. It's not as acid as some other vinegars. It doesn't overrride the flavor of good balsamic and it cuts some of the cloying sweetness. It's actually become my favorite vinegar for more than just sushi rice.

After you smash the garlic with the side of the knife, you can keep on pulverizing in the same manner until you have a fine pulp that incorporates into the emulsion better than minced or crushed garlic.

mmmmmmm, food.

At 5:55 AM, Markus said...

Another great variant is to use bacon drippings to subsitute some of the oil. Together with apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and dijon mustard, it's just great.

At 1:08 PM, Anonymous said...

This was a big help, thanks for all the comments. I agree about adding the oil last. Would mustard help with other oil and vinegar dressing?

At 9:04 AM, Anonymous said...

Just a comment on the garlic. If you do use a press, do not peel the clove first. That way clean up is a breeze, just pull the garlic skin from the press in one piece.

At 9:11 AM, repsak1 said...

Just a comment on the garlic. If you do use a press, do not peel the garlic clove first. That way clean up is a breeze, just pull out the garlic skin in one piece.

At 10:14 AM, Anonymous said...

Sometimes when i do not wish to do many dishes i add the vinegar and oil stright on the salad. i always add the oil first, though, because i find it helps spread the vinegar through the lettuce. Then i usually add some sea salt and herbs to spice it up a little.


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