Guide to Making the Best Vinaigrettes

Words: Crush

Vinaigrettes are essential to making delicious, vibrant salads. A good dressing brightens up the greens and ties all the flavours together. They are also ridiculously easy to make at home, all it requires is a basic knowledge of how to combine fat with an acid. Once you understand how that works, you’ll never go back to the store bought stuff, trust me.

A classic vinaigrette combines fat, like oil, with an acid, like vinegar or lemon juice. Just that combination will give you a delicious dressing, think olive oil and balsamic vinegar, but it’s super easy to add a bit more flavour to it and with that, more texture. You can add mustard as an emulsifying agent to make it creamier, or finely chopped onions and grated garlic for texture. The list is endless! This guide will serve as a simple how-to when it comes to customising your own vinaigrettes.

Get to Know Your Ingredients

Your two most important ingredients are oil and vinegar or citrus. When it comes to oil, pairing a neutral vegetable oil, like avocado oil, with a stronger oil, like sesame or peanut oil, will yield good results. Using just a neutral oil will be too bland and just a stronger oil will be too strong. Extra virgin olive oil works as is, but the flavour of EVOO can be quite variable as it ranges from delicate to intense. Whichever you use, taste your oil and see how strong it is, if it’s too strong, use it in conjunction with a neutral oil, if it’s more delicate, use it on its own.

Your acid is far more variable and how you use it depends on the intensity of its flavour. If you’re using citrus juice, make sure it’s freshly squeezed. If you’re using vinegar, start with a simple red or white wine vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is also a good option if you like slightly more acidic flavour.

Figure out your Proportions

Depending on your acidity tolerance, we suggest a ratio of 1:2 or 1:3 parts vinegar:oil. Make a few batches using different ratios and see which you prefer. These ratios will also change depending on what you’re serving. A simple bowl of leafy greens can take quite a lot of acidity, but if you’re serving a salad with stronger flavours, like olives or something pickled, the dressing needs to be a bit more toned down to complement those flavours.

Decide on an Emulsifier

An emulsifier is an ingredient that holds particles together of ingredients that wouldn’t     usually mix. For example, vinegar and oil do not mix because vinegar has water in it, but when an emulsifier is added and then blended or shaken, an emulsion is created, making the mixture stable. Adding an emulsifier to dressings will make them creamy, yet fresh and light. The most common emulsifier is a good quality Dijon mustard.

Add some Sweetness

Acid and fat need sweetness for balance. You don’t need much, just a touch to cut through it all. Sugar is obviously the easiest and won’t alter the flavour of your vinaigrette too much. Honey is great to use if you’re using `Dijon as the two flavours work well together. If you’re paleo, artificial sweeteners like stevia or xylitol also do the trick.

Add some Freshness

Fresh herbs can add a lot of flavour to your vinaigrette, but only add them in right before serving. Fresh herbs left in the dressing too long will oxidise, wilt and lose their flavour. Chives, thyme, dill and parsley all work well, but it really depends on taste and what you’re serving it with. Any fresh herb will be delicious, but don’t ruin them by adding them too early.

Some of our favourite vinaigrettes…

 

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