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Ingredient: Vinaigrettes

Last-minute salad dressings

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Goat cheese vinaigrette
Simon Watson/Photolibrary/Getty Images

My usual salad dressing is a last-minute vinaigrette. What kind of vinaigrette? That depends on the rest of the meal because the great things about vinaigrettes are they're quick, easy, and adaptable. Let's say I'm serving lasagna, in this case I might combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, and a mixture of Italian herbs such as oregano, rosemary, savory, and parsley. For a Provencal soufflé I could choose olive oil, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and lavender. Pastitisio (a sort of Greek lasagna) might call for olive oil, the brine from feta cheese, and oregano.

Notice that I didn't even use vinegar in the last combination. Technically that means it's not a true vinaigrette, but practically it is because it combines oil and acid. Further, I combine these two ingredients in standard proportions: three parts oil and one part acid. It is this balance of oil and acid that defines a vinaigrette and within these bounds almost anything goes.

For oil you can use:

  • Olive oil
  • Corn oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Canola oil

For the acid try:

  • Red wine vinegar
  • White wine vinegar
  • Sherry vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Malt vinegar
  • Raspberry vinegar

Alternatives to vinegar include:

  • Feta cheese brine
  • Lemon juice
  • Other citrus juice (orange, pineapple, grapefruit…)
  • Verjus

To this basic mixture, add other ingredients for more flavor:

  • Fresh herbs (dried herbs can be used, but aren't as good and need time for the flavors to meld)
  • Prepared mustard (Dijon, brown, Bavarian, and so on)
  • Crumbled cheese (feta, blue, Parmigiano…)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Soy sauce
  • Toasted sesame oil (adjust other oil to accommodate)
  • Garlic,shallot, onion

Next time you're tempted to buy a bottle of French Dressing or Creamy Italian, why not buy a new vinegar instead and make your own salad dressing. It's easy to do and tastes better than anything you can buy.

Basic Vinaigrette Recipe for Two

  • 3 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 Tbsp. vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Other flavorings[/ul

    Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. If using dried herbs, allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. Whisk to combine just before serving.

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