Vinaigrette is a simple cold sauce typically made from three parts oil and one part vinegar. Vinaigrettes are extremely versatile and can be used for other things besides dressing for green salads. They are great as a marinade for grilled or broiled foods; to dress salads made from pastas, grains, vegetables, and beans; as a dip; as a sauce served with hot or cold entrées and appetizers; or brushed on some sandwiches.
Vinaigrette is a temporary emulsion made by blending the measured ingredients until they form a homogeneous sauce. The sauce remains an emulsion for only a short time, quickly separating back into oil and vinegar. To add flavor and help stabilize the sauce, an emulsifier is sometimes included.
A standard vinaigrette ratio of three parts oil to one part acid works well as a starting point, but the vinaigrette needs to be tasted and evaluated whenever a change is made in the type of oil, acid, or specific flavoring ingredients.
Select the oil with an eye to both its flavor and its cost. Oils used in salad dressings can be subtle or intensely flavored. Very strongly flavored oils are often blended with a quantity of less intense oils to produce a balanced flavor in the finished sauce. Oils may serve simply to carry the other flavors in the vinaigrette. Or they may have readily identifiable flavors of their own.
The choice of vinegar ranges widely as well, from those made from wine, to fruit juice, to malted barley, to similar acidic liquids. Each vinegar has a different level of tartness or acidity. Both oils and vinegars can be flavored.
Additional vinaigrette ingredients include emulsifiers (egg yolks, mustard, roasted garlic, fruit or vegetable purées or glace de viande) and such seasonings as salt, pepper, herbs and spices.
Equipment needs for making vinaigrettes are minimal: measuring spoons or cups, a bowl, and a whisk or a blender, food processor or standing mixer.
Here’s a simple balsamic vinaigrette recipe from our Gourmet Meals in Minutes Classes!
Yield: 2 Cups
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Whisk together the red wine vinegar, the balsamic vinegar, and the salt and pepper.
- Gradually whisk in the oil. Adjust the seasoning as desired. Refrigerate until needed. Whisk to recombine before using.