Thursday, January 5, 2017

Kitchen Basics: Vinaigrette

Welcome 2017. I hope this year is so much better for many people than last year was. With the coming of a New Year, comes the setting of goals by many people. One of those goals typically includes eating healthier... Last year I fell off the eating healthy bandwagon, although in my defense I had just eaten a super crazy diet for about a year... that ended in Feb/March of 2016. I had been nursing a baby with neo-natal colitis and couldn't eat about 20 different foods which made eating unhealthy quite difficult. So I regressed to bad eating habits :(.

One thing that I am trying to do is to enjoy more salads. In doing so I've decided that I only enjoy salads IF I have multiple options for salad dressings. I get bored with food easily and if I'm bored with salad I tend to not eat it. At All. Unfortunately. I also have an issue throwing away food and buying multiple salad dressings typically leads me to not use them all before they expire. So homemade salad dressing to the rescue. 

Making a vinaigrette is actually pretty easy and inexpensive - you can make a lot for the cost of a pre-made bottle at the store (and you'll be avoiding all those added ingredients!) The most basic vinaigrette only has two ingredients (but I highly suggest adding some salt and pepper as well.)


and Vinegar

The ratio of these two is the important thing. The most common ratio is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil. If you want a more vinegar flavor you can increase it to 2 parts vinegar.

The type of Vinegar you use will depend on the flavor you want the vinaigrette to have. The most common types of vinegar to use are Balsamic Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, Raspberry Vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar, and Rice Vinegar. White Vinegar does not have much flavor and is not typically used in a vinaigrette.  Balsamic Vinegar has a very distinct flavor and is often the feature flavor of the vinaigrette. Apple Cider Vinegar has a more mild flavor and can be used as a base for many different types of vinaigrette. I tend to use Raspberry Vinegar to make a simple vinaigrette when I have fruit on my salads (like spinach and nectarine, etc.) Rice Vinegar also has a more mild flavor. It is also a great choice when making Asian inspired vinaigrette. 

The type of Oil used also matters. If you want an Olive Oil flavor you'll need to use Extra Virgin Olive Oil. If you want other flavors to stand out more, you'll want to use a lighter oil. You can use a light Olive Oil, or any other Vegetable Oil. There are many different types of oil available in most supermarkets so the different combinations are numerous. I like to try different oils to see which I like most. However the two I use most are Olive Oil - light and extra virgin. 

Juices are also sometimes added to vinaigrettes. The most common type of juice added is Lemon. Lemon juice can take the place of the vinegar or be added in addition. Citrus juices (lemon, lime, orange, etc.) are the most popular in vinaigrette, but not the only options. Again the options are really limitless when mixing all the different combinations. When making a vinaigrette, be sure the acids (vinegar and citrus juice) do not ever exceed a ratio of 2 acid to 3 oil. 

Seasonings are the last aspect of vinaigrette I'm going to discuss today. When making a very simple vinaigrette it is wise to add a little salt and some pepper for a bit more flavor pop. Garlic is also another great addition. As are onions, shallots, herbs (fresh or dried), spices (paprika, nutmeg, etc). Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce can also be added. 

Next Kitchen Basics post I'll be discussing making a creamy vinaigrette. But first, what's your favorite vinaigrette - I'd love to hear what you put on your salads so I can use some of the ideas and be more excited to eat mine ;). 

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