Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Everyday Vinaigrette

Making your own salad dressing is super simple and very easy. In France, salad dressing is a vinaigrette. It's an emulsion of vinegar and oil; that simple. Sometimes people add mustard to it - like me. A real vinaigrette does not have mustard though. I guess it's very personal and I think every French family has its own recipe and technique ("Does the mustard go before the vinegar or after the oil? What about the vinegar, does it go before or after the oil? Ah! zat iz ze question!")

As a child, faire la vinaigrette was one of the first thing I learned to do in the kitchen. We would eat green salad every day for lunch. When you hear "dings" and "clinks" in my parents' house around 12 or 1pm, take it as a clue that lunch is about to be served. My mother makes the vinaigrette right before eating, directly in our big salad bowl (thus the noise of the utensils on the glass bowl),  to which we add the salad.

I have kept the same ritual but I also often make a batch of vinaigrette, to keep in the fridge for a few days (I use a small empty glass jar of mustard or a mini empty bottle of wine). I use it on tomatoes, cold cooked asparagus, cauliflower, artichoke, leeks, in a rice or pasta salad...

The three main ingredients for my Everyday Vinaigrette are: 
  1. mustard (la moutarde): Dijon mustard is what I prefer.
  2. vinegar (le vinaigre): red wine, white wine, champagne, Balsamic or raspberry - any kind, but good quality. You could even try fresh lemon juice or freshly squeezed orange juice.
  3. oil (l'huile): olive oil, canola, walnut or my favorite - sunflower.

Everyday Vinaigrette:

A pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper
1 tsp mustard
1 tbsp vinegar or fresh lemon juice
3 or 4 tbsp oil

Dissolve a pinch the salt into the mustard by whisking (or, if you choose to skip the mustard, dissolve in the lemon juice or vinegar) and add the pepper. Add the vinegar. Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking, until smooth. Voila!

Depending on my moods, I also like to add thinly sliced shallots. They have a mild taste that I really love in green salads. Of course you can also add some pressed garlic. I like to let it sit in the vinaigrette for about 10 minutes to make it more mild, before serving.

I'm really curious to hear how you all make your salad dressing. Any secrets you can share?

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