Recently, my family was together in Newport Beach for 10 whole days, all under the same roof. We were saying goodbye to my mother, and family mealtimes brought us all together. Though we were craving comfort food, I kept the family healthy by making some big main-course salads for lunch. My family kept telling me how much better they were than the salads they make themselves, but couldn’t figure out why. The secret? Homemade vinaigrette! Vinaigrettes are one of the foundations of cooking, something that everyone needs to master.
A bad salad dressing will ruin any salad, making it even harder to stay on track with a healthy diet. Sadly, almost all the dressings I’ve had from the bottle are downright awful, which is why so many people desperately ask me how to make them homemade. Guess what? You’re in luck! They couldn’t be easier to make and can be stored in the fridge for salads any time.
The first thing to know about a vinaigrette is that it is an emulsion— a suspension of fats (oil) in water (vinegar). All this means is that you’ll need a whisk, because the two need a little help mixing. Mustard is classically used to make the job easier. Beyond getting the two properly combined, the only other important factor is the oil to vinegar ratio. Classic French vinaigrettes can be as heavy as 4 or 5 parts oil to 1 part acid. However, the modern ratio has evolved into around 3:1. The thing is, it’s all about personal preference. Plus, some acids are far more acidic than others. I tend to prefer my salad dressings on the zippy side. I use a 2:1 ratio of oil to acid, but that doesn’t mean you have to! Follow my step-by-step vinaigrette guide to learn how to master two basic and one exotic vinaigrette recipes. But by all means, adjust acidity to your taste!
Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
Ingredients: Balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, honey mustard
To a medium bowl, add 1 heaping teaspoon honey mustard and 1/4 cup balsamic. Whisk these together, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
As you whisk, you’ll see the mixture combine and thicken into a smooth dressing. Once it’s emulsified, taste and adjust the seasoning. This simple dressing is the most versatile vinaigrette– I put it on everything!
Shallot-Sherry Vinaigrette with Walnut Oil
To a medium bowl, add 1 heaping teaspoon dijon, 2 tablespoons minced shallot, and 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
Whisk until vinaigrette thickens and comes together. Adjust seasoning to taste and enjoy. While this dressing is a bit more involved (well, chopping a shallot), it is by far my FAVORITE salad dressing. Thanks to the depth of sherry vinegar and the nuttiness of walnut oil, this dressing is a stunner. Shallot is a classic vinaigrette addition that adds the nicest bite— don’t leave it out!
Spicy Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette
Ingredients: Canola oil, agave, apple cider vinegar, lime, hot pepper (I used Thai long chilies but you could use jalepeno, serrano, or whatever you like!), garlic, cilantro, and soy sauce (not pictured, oops!).
Whisk together 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, 1 teaspoon minced chili pepper, 1 clove minced garlic, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar. Don’t forget a pinch of salt!
Go ahead and add in a tablespoon of agave and a teaspoon of soy sauce. Now we’re talkin!
While whisking, slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup canola oil and mix until thick and emulsified.Okay, so this one is a bit more complicated, but you won’t believe how much it pays off. This dressing is truly the star of the show. It’s great for Asian slaws, noodle salads, and is a perfect dipping sauce for Vietnamese summer rolls (my favorite). It’s so good it’s nearly drinkable.
So, who’s excited to make a salad for lunch today? I am! I bottled each of these up in mason jars and put them in the fridge. Just a quick shake brings them back to life and I’m set for flavorful salads all week long. I think I’ll try the one below today, how about you?
What are your favorite salad or vinaigrette combinations? I’m always looking for new combinations and ideas to spice things up. Comment, Tweet, or Facebook me yours!