Cooking For Engineers

Recipe File

Basic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

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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 separated 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.)

Whisk:
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 refrigerator for about two weeks.


Basic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
1 cup extra virgin olive oilblend together slowly
1/2 cup balsamic 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.
Written by Michael Chu
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27 comments on Basic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing:(Post a comment)

On November 03, 2005 at 07:05 PM, an anonymous reader 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.


On November 03, 2005 at 07:06 PM, an anonymous reader 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.


On November 03, 2005 at 07:06 PM, an anonymous reader 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.


On November 03, 2005 at 08:00 PM, an anonymous reader 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.


On November 03, 2005 at 08:01 PM, an anonymous reader 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


On November 03, 2005 at 08:01 PM, Martin (guest) 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.


On November 03, 2005 at 08:02 PM, Seamus (guest) 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.


On November 03, 2005 at 08:02 PM, Markus (guest) 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.


On November 03, 2005 at 08:02 PM, an anonymous reader 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?


On November 03, 2005 at 08:02 PM, repsak1 (guest) 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.


On November 03, 2005 at 08:03 PM, an anonymous reader 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.


On December 06, 2005 at 02:50 AM, curious cook (guest) said...
Subject: mix it up
The oil may help spread the vinegar through, but adding it first will cause your greens to darken and and become limp more quickly (the lack of surface tensions allows the oil to seep in through cuts and holes in the leaves). If you are going to serve the salad IMMEDIATELY I suppose that is ok, but I would reccomend dirtying a jar or small tupperware and mixing the vinaigrette beforehand.


On January 14, 2006 at 10:41 PM, KELLI (guest) said...
Subject: BASIC VINAIGRETTE
I SMASH MY GARLIC WITH THE TINES ON THE MEAT TENDERIZING SIDE OF MY MEAT TENDERIZER. ONE GOOD WHACK!! AND YOUR GOOD TO GO. YOU CAN ALSO DO MANY CLOVES IN A ZIPLOC BAG (WITH THE TOP OPEN), AND THAT WAY YOU HAVE A LITTLE BAGGIE OF MINCED GARLIC, AND NO GARLIC SMELL ON YOUR HANDS. ;)


On February 24, 2006 at 06:10 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: vinaigrette
I like your site. However, when I make vinaigrette, I'm never methodical and do not measure. I love making the dressing quickly and without fuss; that's the beauty of it. I pour some vinegar into a jar (yes, it's better to start with vinegar but i don't always), add sea salt and a bit of honey, then EV olive oil, and shake till done. If needed, add more oil or vinegar. I prefer wine vinegar or even a high quality cider vinegar such as Bragg's, but balsamic is good on certain salads, esp. if you use fruit like apples or pears with the greens. This dressing can be mixed with gorgonzola, salsa (for taco salad), any kind of herbs, and many other things for variety. Dijon mustard is an excellent addition; I don't always use garlic though...I love it but it doesn't love me. And my meat mallet rocks as a garlic masher...makes it into a paste that's great for everything.
thanks for posting this recipe. This dressing is so much healthier and tastier than anything you can buy: no hydrogenated oils. I no longer have those hundreds of bottles of dressing in my refrigerator door!


On August 03, 2006 at 02:35 AM, ceharbert (guest) said...
Subject: Vinaigrette - container
I have enjoyed all these comments! I am searching for the perfect salad cruet and have been very disappointed as to what's available! I am looking for something that seals so the dressing can be mixed and that has a little strainer so the herbs (and garlic) can stay in the dressing but not go into the salad when they are all wilted. Engineers- I challenge you to invent it! Thanks!


On January 04, 2007 at 04:13 AM, christenmu (guest) said...
Subject: My version
I add a few green olives in the blender along with Balsamic vinegar, garlic, grey poupon mustard, honey, olive oil and salt. This makes a thicker dressing. :)


On February 03, 2007 at 10:17 PM, tweemy (guest) said...
Subject: Different Version
I was raised on a vinaigrette very thick in mustard, and I love it. This is my basic vinaigrette.
Start with mustard, dissolve it with your choice of wine or basalmic vinegar until you've got a nice liquid paste, then add a blend of roughly 1/3 olive oil, 2/3 sunflower oil until it has the consistence you wish. Add any spice you want after that.
For a lighter version, you can replace half of the sunflower oil (1/3 of the oil mix) with warm water, it doesn't kill the taste but makes it fluffier.
Another variant of it if you don't like mustard is to replace it with some greek yogurt, but then it's got to be eaten right away. You also can't use basalmic vinegar with it.


On February 14, 2007 at 12:22 AM, Lintballoon said...
Subject: Oil/vinegar balance
I make vinegrette up in small batches and then doctor it as I go.
I smash garlic and add to oil, let it sit and also add other seasonings which are oil soluable, for example rosemary will impart it's flavor to oil better than to vinegar. Basil is best infused in the vinegar, or even sprinkled (dried) directly on the lettuce.
I only use balsamic in cases where I want that specific flavor. It does meld really well with blue cheese.
Usually I want a closer ratio between oil and acid. To prevent the acid from being overwhelming, I might cut the vinegar with white wine, or with smashed fruit, such as strawberries, or with straight juice (try mixing apple cider and balsamic) for a sweeter taste.
For a quick dressing on good fresh greens and veggies, at the table, all you need to really do is sprinkle olive oil (first) on the greens, toss, and then splash on some cheap white vineger, toss, then S&P for an on the spot dressing. Simple, cheap and nice.
And mustard really does magic to emulsify the oil and vinegar.


On February 14, 2007 at 07:35 PM, Joan Wade said...
Subject: garlic press
The fabulous cook/teacher/chef, Paula Wolfert, taught us years ago never to use a garlic press because it turns the garlic bitter.


On November 29, 2007 at 09:15 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Garlic
I prefer to let the garlic sit in the vinegar for about 5 minutes before I add the oil. I find that it takes ameliorates the raw garlic harshness.


On July 27, 2008 at 10:14 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Mustard and Fish Sauce
I don't care for the taste of mustard in salad dressing, but it serves as an emulsifier, so I use a small amount of mustard powder. About 1/4 tsp in 2 Tsp of oil/vinegar will emulsify nicely, but I can't detect the taste.

I also use a dash of fish sauce for the saltiness. It is rich in free glutamates, which enhance the other flavors, and tastes a little like parmesan cheese in low concentrations.


On July 27, 2008 at 10:26 PM, jmcharry said...
Subject: Re mustard fish sauce
That was my post, but I made an error. It should have been 1/8 tsp mustard powder. I use a 1/4 tsp measure , but only fill it 1/2 way.

By the way, mustard powder is dirt cheap at an Indian foods store, and excellent quality.

Golden Boy is probably the best fish sauce, but Squid brand is good also.


On August 29, 2009 at 10:35 PM, serrahgee@yahoo.com (guest) said...
Subject: vinaigrette dressing
i blend onion,add gherkins and parsley together and mix with oil and vinegar.
dujon mustard emulsfies in well and gives a sweet and sour taste which when pour on a grean salad it's really tasty,
last but not least add some salt to neutralize the acidity,black pepper an d mixed herbs last,
i keep the dressing overnite to make sure all is well mixed and to enhance the taste for later use.


On November 26, 2009 at 04:53 PM, an anonymous reader said...
The other secret to a great vinaigrette is to use hot water in place of some of the oil...generally about 1/3 of the required oil content. For example, if your recipe calls for 3 tbsp. of oil, use 2 and add one tbsp. of hot water.

This helps the emulsification process and brightens the flavors.


On April 07, 2010 at 05:22 PM, dhg (guest) said...
Subject: sal
I like to mix only amount I plan to use for the planned salad. I start with a wood bowl and add all non oil stuff, then mix, then add oil and mix again, then add salad leaves and just turn and coat leaves. The idea is to add just enough to get a good coat and nothing more. Then add extras.


On July 25, 2010 at 04:03 AM, Jenny (guest) said...
Subject: yum
I also try to stick with only making the amount that I need. I can't stand when I have leftovers because I have to throw it away and it's such a waste! It stores pretty well in a canning jar though.
-Jenny


On May 15, 2012 at 02:42 AM, celestial seasoning (guest) said...
Subject: basic vinegarette dressing
I use a little dijon mustard, fresh minced garlic, a splash of soy sauce for saltiness and balsamic vinegar and evoo. It is pretty yummy just the way it is!

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