Cooking at home is not just cheaper and safer than eating out or ordering in, it’s also definitely a healthier lifestyle choice. Preparing food needn’t be an elaborate affair. Just a few of our simple strategies can help you crack the toughest recipes. We bring you a series of articles with tips and tricks for the kitchen, so you can learn how to cook like a pro, and avoid the mistakes that haunt rookies and seasoned chefs, alike.
No matter how inventive your salads and how many wholesome, exotic and nutritious ingredients you add to it, it’s still going to bore you to tears without a good dressing to bring it all together. While a dollop of fattening mayo, some raunchy ranch or even a blues-banishing blue cheese dressing may seem like the last resort; these are not exactly healthy options. The only thing that can save the day is a well-put-together vinaigrette. Simple, healthy and delicious enough to eat every day, a well made vinaigrette can elevate healthy eating to a pleasurable level.
Read on for suggestions on how to make stunning vinaigrettes at home:
- Ratio Rations: The perfect vinaigrette is made by a good balance of fat and acid. Most folks prefer to follow the one part vinegar, two parts oil or one part vinegar, three parts oil formula. But play it by your taste buds; find out what you enjoy and which salad ingredients go well with more acidity and which ones work best with more fat. Make mental or physical notes, so that you can whip up a batch at the table, without measuring (to impress your guests, of course).
- Oil Is Well: Your choice of oil is super important since vinaigrettes leave no place to hide behind a bunch of other ingredients, so choose oil that is neutral in flavor such as canola or vegetable, and if you like you can blend it with stronger-tasting oils such as walnut or toasted sesame oil.
- All About EVOO: There’s always a lot of confusion about using extra virgin olive oil for vinaigrettes but it’s simple really: use the best kind that you can afford and save the ones labelled ‘refined’ or ‘light’ for cooking. Before you use the EVOO, make sure you taste it; depending on the brand, the process used to extract it and the region it’s from, each variety has a distinct flavor that can range from sweet or bitter to fruity and peppery. Ideally, a green-tasting or peppery oil works better in dressings and smoother, fruity ones taste delicious when used as a dip for good bread.
- Flavor Fiends: Since the only other star of your vinaigrette stars is vinegar, stay away from the infused and flavored kinds since their strong overtones will be overwhelming on the palate and cancel out the oil and other ingredients’ flavors. So although we encourage you to experiment with different kinds of vinegars such as balsamic, apple cider, sherry, red wine, white wine, to name a few, avoid the strong flavored types. The only exception to this rule is to create your own infusions by steeping fresh and dried herbs, or chillies, or garlic in plain, white vinegar.
- Blender Bender: Although watching the oil and vinegar do a sensual tango in the bowl before being poured over the salad or having bread dipped into it, the best vinaigrettes should use an emulsifier. The most common (and popular for a reason) one is mustard while the other is garlic. Use only premium kinds of mustard such as Dijon instead of the ordinary yellow type. And always grate the garlic just before adding for a hard to match creaminess.
- Hoard The Stuff: Even though making it fresh whenever you need it is easy peasy, you can save time and effort by adding all your ingredients including seasoning to a mason jar, covering it and violently shaking it to combine everything together. Use what you need only, and refrigerate the rest. It’ll keep for weeks but let it come to room temperature so the oil liquefies, and shake it again before your next use.
- Herb Conscious: When using fresh herbs such as chives or tarragon in your vinaigrette, only do so by chopping and adding them right before serving. You shouldn’t add fresh herbs to vinaigrette that you plan to refrigerate since they will turn quickly and destroy your beautiful product.
- Sugar Is Daddy: Just as a bit of salt helps to soften the edges of the rough and tumble melee of fats and acids, a hint of sweetness rounds out the flavors gently. You can use regular table sugar or opt for natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup or even agave nectar but just a wee bit or the salad will taste like dessert.
- Less Is More: No matter how amazing your vinaigrette turns out, refrain from drowning your salad in it. Ensure it is well combined before you gently drizzle it all over, keeping in mind that you can always add more later, if needed. But it goes without saying, you better taste it before you waste it.