Classic Vinaigrette

A jar of Classic Vinaigrette on a countertop. A Lesson In Dressing
I have been learning to cook for a very long time. And, I am still learning to cook—even though I have taken countless classes and read thousands of recipes. You never really stop learning new things in the kitchen. And, of course, it all started with my grandmother, Gam, showing me the basics in her kitchen.

I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say that I have made tens of thousands of recipes over the years. Seriously. And I am not a professional chef. Imagine how many recipes that person would produce!

Out of all those recipes I can point to exactly one that is the most important. That would be a classic French vinaigrette. And, here’s why…

The first time I made a classic vinaigrette, I was taking a six-week cooking course in San Francisco. It was a class that covered the basics of cooking, many of which I had already learned. But, it did it in a way that mirrored what you would learn if you attended culinary school. In other words, this was less Gam’s kitchen and more Cordon Bleu.

The vinaigrette we made that night totally changed my outlook on cooking. It taught me that ratios are important. It taught me that sometimes less is more. But more than anything it taught me that just because something is easier, that doesn’t make it better.

Taking five minutes to make a salad dressing from scratch versus twisting the top off of a bottle is not only healthier, but it will increase your appreciation for what food should actually taste like. And, at least for me, improve your mental well-being in much the same way that finding the perfectly ripe avocado or melon can do. But, I’m weird that way.

Classic Vinaigrette Recipe with Variations
Yields 3/4 cup

Homemade vinaigrette keeps for 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, so it’s worth the 5 minutes it takes to mix it up. Then you can keep it on hand for all of your salad needs.

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (we recommend Stutz)
3 tablespoons vinegar of choice (see below)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (we recommend Maille)
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Make the Vinaigrette
Combine all the ingredients in a liquid measuring cup or bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Stir or whisk well until the ingredients are completely mixed together.

Adjust the flavors
Taste, and adjust as necessary.

  • If the mixture is too acidic, thin it out with a bit more olive oil or balance the flavors with a little maple syrup or honey.
  • If the mixture is too dull, add another pinch or two of salt.
  • If it doesn’t have enough zing, add vinegar by the teaspoon.

To serve
You can serve the Vinaigrette immediately, or cover and refrigerate it for future use.

If your vinaigrette solidifies somewhat in the fridge, simply let it rest at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes to liquefy the olive oil again. Whisk to blend and serve.

Flavor Notes
Balsamic vinegar makes a bold, slightly sweet dressing that is wonderful on green salads with fruit and berries.

Red wine vinegar works well with other bold flavors and bright veggies, such as tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, and cabbage.

White wine vinegar is a more mellow vinegar and it’s nice with more delicate flavors like cucumber and sweet corn. It’s lovely on just about every green salad.

For a Greek or Italian variation use red wine vinegar. And, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried oregano and an optional pinch of red pepper flakes.


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