Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Homemade Vinaigrette for Fabulous Salads and Veggies

It's January 6...have you fallen off the resolution wagon yet? If my Facebook feed is any indication, the heavy dishes and sweets of the holidays have been replaced by beautiful salads and vegetables. Keeping the veggies interesting can be a challenge some days, like when I get a few days into the one pound clamshell of spring mix I bought. Making homemade dressings and vinaigrettes can help keep the salads and steamed veggies healthy and delicious. I'm going to show you how I make the basic kind of vinaigrette, and I've provided some links to recipes for other kinds of dressings at the bottom.

As a kid I had a passion for Thousand Island dressing, but a couple of months of making salads as part of a waitressing job cured me of that. In Argentina I learned to dress my salads Italian style, with just a little salt, vinegar or lemon juice, and oil, and this is still my everyday preference. These and some of my other favorite salad decorations are pictured here:

During my stints at Weight Watchers' meetings, I was often surprised at how many people used bottled fat-free dressings loaded with sugars and preservatives, but had no idea how to work the two required teaspoons of oil into their daily meals. Help me spread the word about how easy it is to make vinaigrettes and other dressings at home!

First, the pronunciation. The word has three syllables: vi-nuh-grette. If you really want to torture me some day, say it with four syllables: vi-nuh-gur-ette. Ack!

Next, finely chop or mince a small shallot, a clove of garlic or a slice of red onion. Place it in some vinegar in a jar and let sit for a few minutes. You don't have to let it sit, but doing so takes out some of the bite.

Sherry vinegar is one of my favorites, but you can use balsamic, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or good old apple cider vinegar. Part of the beauty of making it yourself is that you can really tailor it to your tastes.

The next step is to add a little prepared mustard. If you want mustard flavor, add a couple of tablespoons. If you don't want too much of that, just add a teaspoon or two. It'll help the dressing emulsify. If you hate mustard, leave it out. You'll just have to shake it up more often.

Add a tablespoon of water and then put the lid on the jar and shake up the mixture.
Next comes the oil. I love olive oil, so that's what I usually use. Sometimes I like something lighter in flavor, though, and go with safflower or grapeseed oil. Again, it's up to you.

The usual ratio for oil to vinegar is 3 to 1. I like it a little sharper, so I use more like 2.5 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. Pour in the oil and shake it up again.
Now, add some salt and black pepper (maybe start with 1/4 tsp each) and start testing to see if it has enough for you. The best way I've found to test it out is to dip a leaf of lettuce (or a bite of broccoli, whatever you're planning to use it for) and see how it tastes to you.

Too sharp? Add a little more oil. Needs salt? Add a little more of that. Totally blah to you? Add herbs or spices that jazz it up the way you like it.

Use about a tablespoon for each serving of salad or steamed veg.

In case you want more specific measurements: Simple Vinaigrette from

And these are two recipes I plan to try in the next couple of weeks:
Sesame Goddess Dressing from
Homemade Ranch Dressing (ranch #2 in the post) from

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