Knowing how to make a variety of vinaigrettes is a kitchen skill every cook should have.
Because it is simple and saves money.
And vinaigrettes are not just for salad greens. You can drizzle them on fresh cooked vegetables or grilled chicken or fish.
A vinaigrette consists of three parts oil to one part vinegar (or other acid) along with salt and pepper.
Once you have that down, you can experiment with different vinegars, oils and seasonings.
Theresa Gemus, of Riverview, Mich., has never been a fan of bottled vinaigrettes.
“They were either too bitter or just didn’t make the salad taste good and left a bad taste in my mouth,” she said.
So she makes her own vinaigrette — directly on the salad. She seasons first, adds vinegar and then adds the oil.
Gemus said making her own vinaigrette allows her to control the flavors.
“I can ad lib on the seasoning flavors kind of on the fly,” she said. “And depending what I am making for dinner, I can change those vinegars.”
Mary Spencer, a culinary instructor, also prefers to make her own vinaigrette because she can control the quality of the ingredients.
“It’s using good quality vinegars, some quality olive oils,” said Spencer, who offers cooking classes at Taste: A Cook’s Place, in Epiphany Kitchens in Northville, Mich.
To bring the dressing together, use an emulsifier such as Dijon, which “gives it a little tang,” she said.
Another tip: Spencer recommends making the vinaigrette in the bottom of the salad bowl and then adding salad greens and other ingredients and tossing them with the vinaigrette.
“You want enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the leaves,” Spencer said.
“I think when you use something that is ready- made you squirt it on and sometimes you over do it,” she said.
“Making your own just tastes so much better.”
50 shades of greens salad
3tablespoons good quality olive oil
1tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Big pinch of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1large head Boston lettuce, largest outer leaves and damaged leaves removed; remainder washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
3/4cup loosely packed mix of fresh flat and curly parsley leaves
1small bunch frisée, torn into pieces
1cup arugula leaves
2to 3 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1small ripe but firm avocado
In a small bowl, combine all the vinaigrette ingredients and whisk until thoroughly emulsified.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the lettuce, parsley, frisée, arugula and green onions. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Evenly divide the salad greens onto four salad plates.
Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Scoop out the flesh in one piece. Slice each half crosswise in thin half-moons. Drizzle the avocado with a bit of the vinaigrette and then arrange several slices on each salad. Add another drizzling of vinaigrette, if desired, over each salad.
Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 200 calories (77 percent from fat), 17 grams fat (3 grams sat. fat), 12 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 130 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 8 grams fiber.
Adapted from Fine Cooking magazine 2005. Tested by Susan M. Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen.
Basic Dijon vinaigrette
1tablespoon finely minced shallots
1/2-1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2-1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
1/3-1/2cup good quality olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Fresh chopped herbs, if desired
In a small bowl stir together the shallots, Dijon and salt. Whisk in the lemon juice and vinegar until blended. When well blended, start whisking in the oil, in a steady stream until it forms a smooth emulsion. Taste and adjust seasonings. Finish with a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and herbs, if using.
Makes 2/3 cup, enough for eight servgins. Per serving: 59 calories (97 percent from fat), 7 grams fat (1 gram sat. fat), 0 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams protein, 62 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 grams fiber.
From and tested by Susan M. Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen.
Shaved zucchini salad with Parmesan and pine nuts
1/3cup good quality olive oil
2tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2pounds medium zucchini, trimmed
1/2cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1/4cup pine nuts or blanched almonds, toasted
Small wedge of Parmesan cheese
In a small bowl, whisk oil, lemon juice, salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper. Set dressing aside.
Using vegetable peeler or V-slicer and working from top to bottom of each zucchini, slice zucchini into ribbons (about 1/8-inch thick). Place ribbons in large bowl. Add basil and nuts, then dressing; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Plate salad on individual plates. Using vegetable peeler, shave strips from Parmesan wedge over salad.
Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 187 calories (84 percent from fat), 18 grams fat (2.5 grams sat. fat), 6 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 247 mg sodium, 2 mg cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.
From www.bonappetit.com. Tested by Susan M. Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen.
Tomato Caesar salad with bacon-Parmesan crisps
2slices cooked, crisp, thick-cut bacon
1/2cup plus 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
11/2teaspoons all-purpose flour
4anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
1small clove garlic, minced
2tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
5medium or large heirloom tomatoes, sliced crosswise 1/2-inch thick
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Baby arugula or watercress, for topping
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Finely chop the cooked bacon.
In a small bowl, mix together the bacon, 1/2 cup Parmesan and flour. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the bacon-cheese mixture into 4 mounds on baking sheet and flatten them into 3 1/2-inch rounds. Bake until golden brown and the cheese melts, about 7-8 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack using a thin spatula and let cool completely.
To make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk the anchovies, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and the remaining 3 tablespoons of cheese.
Arrange the tomatoes on a platter, sprinkling each layer with salt, pepper and some of the vinaigrette. Scatter the watercress on top and drizzle with olive oil. Break the crisps into bite-size pieces and add to the salad.
Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 130 calories (58 percent from fat), 9 grams fat (3 grams sat. fat), 8 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 532 mg sodium, 12 mg cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.
Adapted from Food Network magazine, September 2012 issue. Tested by Susan M. Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen.
Mix and match
Vinaigrettes are generally three parts oil to one part vinegar. So, to make about 1 cup vinaigrette you will need 3/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup vinegar or other acidic liquid. Exact amounts vary from recipe to recipe; the key is to adjust ingredients to taste. Here are some tips and a list of essential ingredients.
Have all the ingredients at room temperature so vinaigrette emulsifies more easily.
While whisking, drizzle the olive oil in slowly and in a steady stream. The mixture should slowly come together, emulsify and look creamy.
Make vinaigrettes up to three days in advance and refrigerate. When you make the salad, place the greens in a bowl and add the vinaigrette a few tablespoons at a time so it just coats the greens.
Oil: Good quality fruity or mild olive oil, canola oil, grapeseed, nut oils such as walnut.
Vinegars or acids: Balsamic (white or dark), champagne, apple cider vinegar, fresh lemon or lime juice, fruit varieties (such as cranberry, pear or raspberry), orange juice, red or white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, rice (seasoned or unseasoned) for an Asian spin, plain white vinegar.
Seasonings: Salt and pepper, Dijon mustard, fresh or dried herbs, minced garlic, minced ginger, honey, lemon or lime zest, chopped nuts, soy sauce (for Asian spin), minced shallots and sugar.