- Servings: Dresses about 8 to 10 cups of salad.
Every French chef and French cookbook author has a favorite version of this classic oil and vinegar salad vinaigrette. Some cooks make a bottle of it in advance and keep it in the refrigerator for whenever it's needed, but it's so simple to make, you can equally put it together just before serving your salad.
What's most important in this recipe is the ratio of oil to acid. The ratio of oil to acid determines how rich (oily) or bright (acidic) the dressing will be. I like mine to be neither too oily, nor too acid and use a ratio of one vinegar to two-and-a-half oil because I think this is best for bringing out the flavors of the salad itself. Figure out what you like and it will be a permanent part of your cooking repertoire.
You don't need lots of dressing for a big bowl of salad ingredients. Just toss a lot and you'll be surprised how far a little will go.
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 forkful of good Dijon mustard (the smooth kind; my favorite brand is Maille), or about 3/4 teaspoon
- A pinch of salt
- About 5 or 6 grinds of fresh pepper
- Working in a small bowl begin with the vinegar
- Add the salt, pepper and mustard; using the fork you just used to add the mustard, gently stir to dissolve the salt and break up the mustard
- Add the olive oil. Gently whisk with the fork to emulsify the dressing (or mix everything in a glass jar and just cover and shake)
- Add to your completely prepared salad that's already in a salad bowl, and using salad servers, gently but thoroughly toss your salad to let the dressing cover everything.
Making it Yours
- If you are making a smaller or larger quantity of salad, just make more or less dressing using the same recipe, keeping the ratio of 2:5 vinegar to oil regardless how much you're making
- You can make the dressing with all olive oil or for a slightly lighter flavor, you an use half or all canola oil. But keep in mind that some olive oils have a stronger flavor that will be tasted on your salad greens. Canola oil is very mild, almost tasteless. Both are healthy oils
- Keep leftover vinaigrette refrigerated for up to two weeks. The oil will probably solidify from the cold so just bring to room temperature and give it a stir or a shake before using. If you're in a hurry, hold the jar of dressing under hot tap water until the oil liquifies.
- A finely minced anchovy filet or a squeeze of anchovy paste can add depth yet with no fishy taste
- For a quick Roquefort dressing add some crumbled Roquefort cheese to the finished vinaigrette
- If you like a citrus flavor, substitute half the vinegar with fresh lemon or tangerine juice. The lemon juice will add a citrus kick while the vinegar will keep some flavor depth. I think all lemon juice is too acid but taste it for what you like
- Walnut oil in place of a little of the olive oil or canola oil can make a nice dressing for a beet or other cooked vegetable salad. But be careful about using all walnut oil because it is heavy and can add an unctuous flavor
- Experiment with the herbs and spices that you like best to cook with. For instance, if you love tarragon, mince some fresh tarragon and add it to the dressing. Start out with small amounts, maybe just a teaspoon to the quantities in the above recipe, because fresh herbs can be potent flavors and you don't want to overwhelm the salad. Resist using those ten-year-old dried herbs sitting on your shelves. They'll add nothing but dust to your dressing.
- Add a little dressing and toss and then decide if you need to add more. You can always add but can't take away.
- Finally, an important salad tip -- make sure your salad greens are completely dry. If you've washed them, use a salad spinner or fold the greens in paper towels to get rid of all the water before you dress the salad. Otherwise the dressing will be diluted and won't adhere to the greens.