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Vinaigrette

I’ve been often asked, . . . sometimes asked, . . . somebody asked me once if there is a simple and quickly made salad dressing that is versatile enough to replace all the half empty salad dressing bottles in the fridge.  Well, an oil and vinegar combination will do it. 

The hardest thing about vinaigrette is the spelling.  Again, blame the French.  Vinaigrette is a take off of vin aigre or “sharp (sour) wine. 

The proportions for vinaigrette are three parts oil and one part vinegar.  Go with that.  The preparation is simple, just put vinegar, some seasoning and oil together, shake or whisk it like mad and its ready to dress dry salad leaves. (Leaves wet with water will repel the dressing.)  It is not necessary to drizzle in the oil as with hollandaise or mayonnaise.

What about seasonings?  Well, first of all, adding a flavoring liquid that is less slick and smooth than oil and vinegar encourages the two to combine and stay combined.  Substitute ‘emulsifier’ for less slick and smooth, and ‘emulsify’ for combine and we enter the world of emulsion sauces.  Both McGee and Corriher whisk endlessly on this subject.  We need only recognize the need for an emulsifier in our vinaigrette, identify a few and press on.  The best emulsifier is mustard, but vegetable purees, such as tomato, bell pepper or garlic work as well.  So too, of course, does egg yolk, but then we are into light mayonnaise.  So here we have the basic vinaigrette recipe for two:

VINAIGRETTE
Yield:  2 servings
See Abbreviations, if needed

·   1t     red wine vinegar  (1 part)
·   ½ t   Dijon-type mustard  (½ part)
·   S/P   to taste
·   1T    olive oil  (3 parts)

1.  In a shallow stainless steel or glass bowl, add vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper
2.  Whisk briskly with a fork, (use a whisk or a stick blender for large quantities)
3.  Add the oil and whisk again
4.  Add additions (2t of cheese for example)
5.  Adjust seasoning and set aside

Additions:  Got to have cheese!  Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano heads the list, followed by crumbled Roquefort, feta or goat cheese—all whisked smoothly into the final dressing (toss more cheese into the salad greens, if you like).

Substitutions:
·    Stay with Dijon-type mustards.  You can experiment with the other aforementioned emulsifiers if using the vinaigrette on cold cuts, tuna salad and the like
·    Substitute balsamic vinegar or seasoned rice vinegar for the red wine vinegar. Both of these vinegars are sweet.  I often use seasoned rice vinegar and always use a splash of cheap balsamic vinegar for taste and color.  (Never use distilled vinegar.) 
     o   (Tip:  Seasoned rice vinegar works great alone as a quick low calorie salad dressing.)
·    Substitute peanut oil for extra virgin olive oil, if you must for some reason.  Infused oils, can also be used but their subtle flavors will get lost in the mustard and cheese.  Adjust, adjust, adjust . . .


 

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