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Kitchen 101: Basic Vinaigrettes

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This post features the BlenderBottle that I am giving away. Make sure to visit my BlenderBottle Giveaway post and follow the instructions over there to get your entry in. Contest ends March 1st, at 23h59.

One of the things I could never understand is how people buy the bottled vinaigrettes at the grocery store. Sure, I understand that time can be an issue – the question needs to be asked though – at what cost? By the end of this post, you will be able to make your own vinaigrette with nothing more than a few tools you have hanging around, and you will never have to buy the premade stuff again.

Theory

The main thing you need to remember when it comes to vinaigrettes is it’s a ratio of 3:1. That’s 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar (or acid.) Of course, there are exceptions to the rules, (like if you are my wife and like a acidic vinaigrette, you will be closer to 2:1.) The easiest thing to do is remember that ratio, live it, and breathe it, and you will never have to buy another store-bought item again.

After that golden ratio, the only thing left are two parts: the emulsion, and the seasonings.

Emulsion

There are two routes that I can remember when it comes to emulsion. You can either use egg yolks, or mustard.

When you use egg yolks, the natural lecithin is what emulsifies the mixture. In the case of mustard, it is the natural gums that do the trick. In either case, we use this to help our mixture become stable.

The amount of emulsion to the total mixture seems to hit a sweet spot at around 2% of the whole mixture. I usually run about 1 teaspoon for every cup of vinaigrette that I make. Any less, and the emulsion breaks. It’s not such a big deal, you can always just shake the mixture before using… but if you have it on a buffet serving hundreds of people – you get the idea.

Seasonings

Now we have what makes our vinaigrette stand out from a simple oil and vinegar mix. It can be fresh herbs, chopped up sundried tomatoes, Tabasco sauce – you name it. Liquids and dry herbs are usually added to the vinegar mixture before adding the oil for ease of use. If a liquid is added after emulsion has occurred, the risk is that the vinaigrette will break, or lose emulsion power because the ratio of liquid to oil is upset.

Fresh herbs, chopped items like capers, sundried tomatoes or olives are added at the end once the emulsion is reached. This is so the final tasting and correction of the seasoning can take place. In most cases its so you don’t lose the texture of the garnish. (For example, if you put in sundried tomatoes at the beginning before adding your oil, by the time you are finished you would not recognize the sundried tomatoes.)

Equipment:

One can get all fancy and use a blender, or micro food processor especially for vinaigrettes. Or, you can do what I do.

I use a jar with a lid. (My wife says I have a million of them around the house, so this recipe at least justifies its use.) Today I am going to use the BlenderBottle because it has a whisk inside, which is perfect for my needs. (Don’t forget to enter the contest to win yours!)

Today I am going to make Zesty Italian Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoons salt
  • 1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method:

IMG_2052Get your vessel ready to make a vinaigrette. It could be a jar with a lid, or in this case it’s a BlenderBottle.

IMG_2053Add vinegar, Dijon mustard, water, honey, all the spices to the jar. Close the lid.

IMG_2054Shake vigorously until the mixture foams.

IMG_2055Open lid, add 1/3 of the oil to the bottle; close and shake vigorously.

IMG_2056Repeat, adding another 1/3 of the olive oil, then shake vigorously.

IMG_2057Taste mixture with lettuce; adjust seasonings. I poured it into a container that I will be storing in the fridge. It makes it easier for a person to taste the vinaigrette. Why don’t we just taste it with out fingers? Well, it’s best to taste it with what you are using it for. Lettuce!

IMG_2058Store in container in the fridge, and the vinaigrette will keep for up to two weeks. (If it lasts that long.)

 

Your Turn

What is your favorite vinaigrette to make? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Mike

    Yes! I’ve been eating a daily salad for over two years, and I started making my own dressings at the same time. Easy to make and use.

    Most of the time I’ll make a basic recipe using olive oil, salt, pepper and a balsamic. Sometimes I’ll add in sun dried tomatoes, herb, mixed berries, avocado, or anything else to give it a different texture or flavor. Homemade is only limited by imagination.

    Jason, have you ever tried avocado oil? Is it worth the price?

  • http://www.janssushibar.com Jan

    Yeah, it’s about the time of year I start craving salads. I’m with Mike – mine are mostly very basic – olive oil, S&P, balsamic, sometimes a little grated shallot or finely minced garlic. However, we are planning on eating far more salads than is the norm (for us, anyway) this spring and summer, so I’m going to make quite a few dressings for them. Thanks for this recipe – it looks yummy!

  • http://www.knitandnosh.typepad.com terri

    Honey Dijon is a constant around here. Sometimes I replace the honey with agave, but always there is a bit of shallot. MMM

  • Terri

    Honey and Lime Vinaigrette, and I like to rock the old skool Raspberry vinaigrette. I seem to like the sweet and sour combination. I make a colossal salad almost every day – as in I make it in a large mixing bowl and everything and anything can end up in it – seeds, fruit, various lettuces, pickles, olives…. Scrummy! My lunch on most days. Now to get one of those bottles over here….

  • http://praguestepchild.blogspot.com/ Sean

    I’m pretty fond of a sesame ginger vinaigrette–rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, honey. Not ideal, perhaps, but a dressing that can entice me to chow down on a lot of salad.

  • http://welldonechef.com Jason Sandeman

    @Sean – I would say it sounds pretty rad! Good with beef, or even rice noodles!

  • http://welldonechef.com Jason Sandeman

    @Terri – Oh, sounds yummy!

  • http://welldonechef.com Jason Sandeman

    @Jan – Always glad to be of service! I like the basic dressings too, but I have known to be a sucker for cucumber dressing, or even a good balsamic dressing.

  • http://welldonechef.com Jason Sandeman

    I like it. Honey and lime. Throw some Tequila in there, and you got a convert. Hmmm… I smell a recipe coming up. And wings… not sure, but I just thought of wings. LOL

  • http://praguestepchild.blogspot.com/ Sean

    Jason, the sesame ginger tastes great, it’s just I don’t consider it very ideal from a paleo/real food perspective. Sesame oil has a lot of n-6, and soy sauce isn’t super healthy either even if I do love the stuff. But one has to live a little ;)

  • http://welldonechef.com Jason Sandeman

    @Sean – ah, from Paleo perspective – I get the picture. OTOH, from a “real” foods perspective – as long as the soy sauce is traditional, and the sesame oil is quality – I have no problem with either. Of course, that means staying away from Kikkoman’s and maybe taking a trip to the local Chinatown. That’s never a bad thing in my books. LOL

  • http://praguestepchild.blogspot.com/ Sean

    Heh, actually the soy sauce I buy is Kikoman’s from Japan. I get the 1 liter plastic bottle at the local Japanese store where I also get nori, rice wine vinegar and other necessities for life. I get the yellow label which is supposed to be the mild version although it’s hard to tell since it’s all in Japanese except for the brand name.

    I don’t have a problem with soy sauce but if I eat too much of it I definitely feel it, accelerated pulse, bloated extremities, bad feeling overall. This goes triple for MSG which I also love. Strange that I seem to have lousy tolerance for both these things.

    As far as the sesame oil goes, that’s more of a theoretical thing and SO is only about 46% PUFA nothing to freak out about. I think the real food aspect is the most important thing. Can we hug it out?

  • http://welldonechef.com Jason Sandeman

    @Sean – its all good. I can’t believe you can stomach the stuff though – my time as a chef in an Asian resto made me a snob I guess.
    As for SO – I never cook with the stuff,it’s like Extra Virgin olive oil to me. Again, could be a snob thing. LOL

  • http://praguestepchild.blogspot.com/ Sean

    I use the sesame oil pretty much exclusively for this sesame-ginger vinaigrette. The original recipe called for cutting it with Canola oil, but I like the strong sesame taste, plus I don’t keep rapeseed oil in the house. If I’m feeling lazy I will use sushi ginger (and pour in the juice) then I don’t have wait for the ginger to infuse into the dressing. I also use a ton of ginger, the original recipe was two tsp (!!!!), yeah right, more like a quarter cup.

  • http://welldonechef.com Jason Sandeman

    @Sean – LOL. Are you using the pink sushi ginger, or the white stuff? The pink stuff is the garbage, and the white stuff is POTENT. I don’t have ANY canola in the house either. I just can’t get over how people think that stuff is “healthy.” I grew up near farms that grew the stuff – and the smell is something I can’t enjoy. Besides, to me it’s not real food.
    If I cut the oil with anything it may be grapeseed oil. The thing is, most often with Asian dressings, a little goes a long way.
    I think I know what I should be making soon, thanks for the idea!

  • http://praguestepchild.blogspot.com/ Sean

    Well the, uhm *mumble, mumble*.

    Okay the pink stuff, damnit! Mostly I bought it because my wife is crazy about it when we go to a sushi restaurant but we never actually eat it at home which is pretty much what we do exclusively. It actually wasn’t that long ago that fresh ginger was hard to get here in Prague, how things have changed. Even fresh cilantro is ubiquitous these days.

    Asian dressing can really rock. I bought one Japanese dressing in a bottle and it was so amazing I kept the bottle around hoping to figure out how to reproduce it from scratch by using the ingredient list. Never even came close and finally tossed the bottle. Too bad, you’d probably have been able to tell me how to make it.

    Actually a lot of rape is grown here in the Czech Republic. The fields look nice in the spring with their bright waving yellows. For a long time I was told that they were growing mustard seeds. Damn, that’s a lot of mustard, I thought. I finally figured out it was rape which is in the mustard family but not used to make mustard of course.