Cold, hard truth: You can make superb salad dressing at home with practically no effort.
On Tuesday, we shared a recipe for a vinaigrette made with caramelized shallots and bee pollen. But at its most basic, a vinaigrette is a combination of oil and vinegar, seasoned with salt and pepper. Here's how we do it:
The oil: We like to use extra-virgin olive oil. You could use canola oil or a combination of the two; grassy, pungent Tuscan olive oils are good for some applications, but we prefer mellower, fruity ones for vinaigrette. In fall and winter, we replace a portion of the olive oil with nut oil, choosing walnut, pumpkin seed or hazelnut. Nut oils are pricier and spoil quicker, so buy small bottles and refrigerate after opening.
The vinegar: If we're dressing robust greens like escarole or watercress, or salads comprising roasted root vegetables or nutty cheese, balsamic or sherry vinegars are our go-to. For tender spring greens like mâche and baby arugula, choose Champagne vinegar. Lemon juice can also be used; because it's milder than vinegar, we use it in a one-to-one ratio with the oil. You can also experiment with these interesting vinegars.
The base: A teaspoon of Dijon mustard is a good foundation. We also like minced anchovy fillets, minced garlic, chopped caramelized or raw shallots, a teaspoon of olive tapenade, even a spoonful of jam. You can add a pinch of sugar or a teaspoon of honey, if desired, and season the finished vinaigrette with salt and pepper and chopped fresh herbs like parsley, chervil, basil, mint or chives.
Basic VinaigretteRecipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 1/2 cup
Cook Time: n/a
Garlic, minced, 1 clove
Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon
Vinegar (balsamic, sherry, white or red wine, Champagne or apple cider), 2 tablespoons
Extra-virgin olive oil, 6 tablespoons
Ground black pepper
In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the garlic, mustard, vinegar and olive oil. Shake vigorously until the oil and vinegar are well-emulsified, then season to taste with salt and pepper. The dressing will keep, refrigerated, for 1 week.