Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Making Vinaigrette Dressings

The popularity of salads seems to be at an all-time high.  They have been one of the in foods for quite a few years.  People are trying to eat more healthy and salads can be one of the components.  But you have to be careful.  One of the ingredients in salads that can make them not healthy is the dressing you put on the salad.

Many store bought dressings are big in calories and sugar.  They are also very expensive.  That's where a "Vinaigrette Dressing" comes in to play.  Vinaigrettes are easy to make, don't need a large amount and they can save you money.  Yes, I'm talking about making them yourself.

The main thing about a vinaigrette that you need to remember is the "Ratio" of oil to the acidic you are using.  The general rule is to use a "3 to 1" ratio of oil to the acidic (vinegar and/or citrus juice).  You will find recipes that go as low as 2 to 1 in there ratio.  This works just fine if the taste of the vinaigrette meets your approval.  Some do this to cut down on the amount of oil and calories in the dressing.  You can always start there and work your way up to the 3 to 1 ratio based on how the vinaigrette meets your flavor profile.  So experiment a little with your vinaigrettes.

Vinaigrettes only take a few ingredients and they are ones you have in your kitchen almost always.  They require good oil of some type.  Any vegetable or salad oil will work.  Olive is one of the most popular ones.  Just make sure to use extra virgin olive oil and not regular or light olive oil.  In today's world other oils such as canola and soybean fit in that vegetable/salad oil group.  The olive oil helps give a little twist on taste to the other oils, as do walnut and avocado oil.

You need an acidic of which vinegar is the most used.  Here too you have choices.  There are many different vinegars out there.  There are apple cider, red wine, white wine, champagne, rice wine to name a few.  However, the vinegar that has really become popular is "Balsamic" vinegar.  Balsamic is like olive oil in that it has various flavor depending on the age and quality of the product.  Each vinegar will have an effect on the final taste of your vinaigrette.

There are other ingredients that can offer you the acidic reaction a vinaigrette requires.  Lemons or other citrus juices work well for this in your vinaigrette.  Lime, grapefruits and oranges are popular and the orange gives you a little sweetness to go with the tartness.  They can be used with the vinegar or by themselves.

I've mentioned above how the different oils and acidic ingredients will change the taste or flavor of your vinaigrette.  So to do the other ingredients you add to your vinaigrette, such as herbs and spices.  just salt and pepper will do the trick.  But using dry or fresh herbs, freshly ground spices, shallots or garlic can help compliment the different items in the salad you are dressing.  So think about that as you create a wonderful salad for your meal.  Kosher salt is considered the best salt to use in a vinaigrette.  Fresh ground black pepper or even white pepper is the way to go here.

Something I haven't mentioned yet is an emulsifier for the vinaigrette.  If you have ever tried to mix oil and vinegar, you would have noticed they separate as soon as you stop mixing.  So to make an emulsion to keep the vinaigrette from separating, you need a little mustard.  Any type will work but the most popular are Dijon and brown mustard.  As with any vinaigrette, you will still want to mix or stir them up just before use.  You can leave them at room temperature or refrigerate after being made.  If you do refrigerate the mixture, be sure to let it sit out a few minutes before using too.

Now I told you the ratio above.  The other information you need in making a vinaigrette is the order the ingredients go in.  You can mix all the ingredients together but the oil first.  Once this is done, you slowly add the oil while continuously whisking the mixture.  It's through this process that the vinaigrette is emulsified.  Whisking in a mixing bowl is the basic way to make a vinaigrette.  However with technology, one can use a blender or food processor to mix your vinaigrette too.  another technique is to combine everything in a jar with a lid.  Put the lid on tight and shake the mixture until well incorporated.

Remember that a normal vinaigrette recipes makes about 1 cup.  So you don't use much product and have little leftover.  That takes us back to vinaigrettes being easy, inexpensive and make a small amount.  I hope this has helped you and that you will try this week's recipes of "Herbed Vinaigrette" and "Balsamic Vinaigrette" dressings.  "Happy Cooking" until next week.

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