Mastering a basic vinaigrette recipe is super easy and a great and economical way to add flavor to salads as well as lots of other dishes and also a great way to utilize herbs and other bounty from your garden.
Vinaigrettes are not just for salads, spoon them over roasted vegetables or grilled fish or chicken, a nice herbaceous vinaigrette is delicious over a charred steak fresh off the grill, it’s even great for marinating that steak before you grill it.
Making a traditional vinaigrette couldn’t be simpler, you start with this base and add anything else you want from there. The basic ratio is three parts oil to one part acid. That acid can be in any form: vinegar, lemon juice, any other citrus juices, whatever you want. The oil does not need to be a fancy, expensive olive oil and in fact, it shouldn't be. really good extra virgin olive oils will be too overpowering and add a bitter flavor to the vinaigrette. I personally like a mix of vinegar and a little bit of lemon juice because I think the fresh citrus juice adds a certain brightness to the vinaigrette. I also prefer my vinaigrettes to be more acidic and not sweet.
Here's the most basic:
3/4 cup of neutral flavored oil (canola, grapeseed, vegetable)
1/4 cup of vinegar, red wine or apple cider are great starters (or citrus juice or a mix)
a pinch of salt
a pinch of ground black pepper
The easiest way to make this is to put all of the ingredients into a mason jar, tighten up the lid (double check it) and shake it up. It will separate as it sits so always give it a good shake before using. This method applies to all the variations.
Now that you've got that down,
Here's how I riff on it:
1/2 cup of neutral oil
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp of sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp dijon mustard (I swear by the Maille brand)
1 Tbsp finely minced shallot
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp of finely chopped fresh thyme
a pinch of salt
a couple large pinches of freshly ground black pepper
Here's how to make it your own:
Want it to be sweeter? add:
brown sugar (just make sure you shake until it's all dissolved)
Less acidic? add:
less vinegar, obviously
round it out with liquids with lower acidity, orange juice is a great one.
Other flavorings to add:
fresh soft herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley, tarragon, dill (add them at the last minute if you want them to stay green, you'll get more flavor out of them the longer they're in though so maybe being green isn't so important)