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What is a vinaigrette?

In its simplest, most basic form, a vinaigrette is made of 2 or 3 ingredients - vinegar and oil, of course, and maybe salt and pepper. But you can create an almost infinite variety of vinaigrettes by following a few basic principles and adding or changing the ingredients.

Who knows when the first vinaigrette was made? Almost certainly, it was many thousands of years ago. Vinegar was probably discovered very early on, since vinegar is often the result of beer or winemaking gone wrong (and many authorities believe that early man took up farming to ensure a steady supply of beer). And the recent discovery of 2,400 year old herb-infused olive oil makes it clear that our ancestors possessed both culinary know-how and sufficiently sophisticated palates to appreciate a well-prepared vinaigrette!

Vinaigrette Basics

Always use the highest-quality ingredients you can afford - you won't regret it.

The ratio of vinegar to oil for a basic vinaigrette is usually considered to be one part vinegar to three parts oil. Consider this as a basic guideline only - use whatever tastes right to you.

Vinaigrette Tips & Tricks

Experiment with a variety of vinegars (sherry vinegar, red wine vinegar, rice vinegar etc) or other sour, acidic liquids, like lemon, lime, yuzu or other citrus juices, verjus (unfermented tart grape juice) or other tart fruit juices (cranberry, sour cherry or elderberry).

Likewise, try using different oils in your vinaigrette. Nut oils, like walnut or hazelnut oil, have a pleasant, toasty flavor. Avocado oil, grapeseed oil, tea seed oil all make a unique contribution to the flavor of a vinaigrette.

Mustard is optional, but it adds flavor and helps emulsify the oil and vinegar. If your vinaigrette separates, just whisk or shake it well before using.

Enhance the flavor of your vinaigrette with chopped or roasted garlic or shallots. Add a little honey or fruit juice for a hint of natural sweetness. Herbs, like basil, parsley, thyme and rosemary, add dimension and flavor.

Vinaigrettes are not just for salads! Try vinaigrettes as sauces or marinades for meats, fish, shellfish, poultry or vegetables.


Basic Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil
3 - 4 Tbsp vinegar
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tsp Dijon-style mustard
Pinch sugar

Preparation:
Whisk vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper together in a non-reactive bowl. Slowly pour in the oil, whisking continually until completely incorporated. Taste and add more vinegar or salt & pepper, if desired.

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