I served this simple tossed salad as one of the dishes for my recent Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 dinner and I wrote that I dressed it with a simple vinaigrette. Are you still buying bottled vinaigrette salad dressings? If so, now's the time to stop! Whisking up a fresh vinaigrette is probably one of the most simple things to create and once you get spoiled by the flavors and freshness of making your own, you'll be disappointed by the preservative-laden, artificial-tasting ones in the store.
What makes a vinaigrette different from just dressing in your salad with oil and vinegar (which works fine too - just ask most Italians) is that the ingredients in a vinaigrette are whisked together and emulsified to form a single consistency dressing. Sometimes mustard is used to help this process along (see the Champagne Vinaigrette below) and sometimes you just need to either whisk or share your ingredients together until they are well combined. Here are several of my favorite vinaigrettes for you to try. If the vinaigrette contains no fresh herbs or other ingredients it will last for a long time in the refrigerator. If it contains fresh herbs or produce, use in a few days.
In food processor or blender, puree 1 cup sliced strawberries and 1 garlic clove. Add 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; process until well-blended. If you prefer a thinner vinaigrette, add 2 to 4 tablespoons water. Yields about 1 cup.
In small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 2 teaspoons grated lime peel, 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Slowly whisk in 6 tablespoons olive oil. Yields 1/2 cup.
In large bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon minced shallots and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard. Whisk in 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Yields 1/4 cup.
Fresh Herb Vinaigrette
In small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (such as basil and chives or parsley), 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Slowly whisk in 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Yields about 1/4 cup.
In small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Slowly whisk in 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Yields 1/3 cup.