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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tutorial: How to make a vinaigrette

Let's face it: premade salad dressings are tasty.  However, like many other tasty things, they are of dubious nutritional value and questionable ingredients.  My philosophy of moderation dictates that it's okay to indulge in these gustatory delights from time to time, but we can make--arguably--an even more delicious dressing that incorporates those healthy fats--remember, about 17% of our diet should be composed of healthy fats--that we can happily enjoy on a daily basis. 

So what's the magic recipe?  It's actually a magic ratio: 3:1.  All vinaigrettes are composed of three parts vinegar and one part oil.  Regular white vinegar leaves a bit to be desired as a salad dressing, but there are tons of other kinds to choose from: red wine, balsamic (my personal favorite), champagne, raspberry, white wine, etc.  Similarly, you can choose which type of oil you'd like to use.  I like olive oil because of the healthy fatty acids, but you could use canola or anything else that floats your boat.  Now, as you might remember from 6th grade science class, oil is a bit antisocial and doesn't like to mix with anybody else.  So, how can you make a vinaigrette, then, if your oil won't mix?  Veeerrrryyy slowly.  Always start with your vinegar in a bowl.  Vinegar first--don't do this backwards.  It won't work.  Then, drop by drop (yes, drop by drop), while continuously whisking, add in the oil.  Adding it very slowly allows the whisking to break the oil up into tiny droplets and we can make our vinaigrette come together more easily if the oil droplets are teeny.  Whisk, whisk, whisk until all of your oil is added.  It should form a homogeneous emulsion (an combined mixture).

It's important to season the vinaigrette.  A pinch of salt and pepper usually does the trick.  If you want to get crazy and dangerous, you can add lemon juice or another type of acid to complement the vinaigrette, but I'm kind of a purist and I like it simple. 

So there you have it.  Vinaigrette.  Takes a total of about 1.23 minutes.  Not so bad, huh?

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