Making simple vinaigrettes from scratch is as easy as selecting an oil, a vinegar, and herbs and spices. It s an art that for years I watched my mother-in-law whip up as she dressed salads, usually made with home-grown greens, magnificent garden tomatoes, green peppers, and cucumbers.
The family garden is gone now, seeded in grass. But I have been reminded this spring as I experimented with some of the new oils and vinegars of how adeptly she made homemade vinaigrettes. She used vegetable oil, red wine vinegar, dried garlic powder, seasoning salt, dried onion flakes, and sometimes one tablespoon of ketchup for color and flavor.
Which means you need only a simple canola or vegetable oil, cider vinegar, and fresh herbs and dried minced onion or garlic to launch your own inexpensive vinaigrette. From there, expand your horizon with new products.
La Tourangelle California Gourmet Oils is a line of hand-crafted oils extracted from nuts. Using a mini carafe with a cork stopper, I started with Roasted Hazelnut Oil using 4 tablespoons of the oil to 2 tablespoons vinegar, 2 tablespoons water, and to teaspoon Italian spice mix. It s enough for four servings. You don t need that much of the vinaigrette to drizzle across the salad. (Use the same ratio of ingredients for whatever vinaigrette you choose.)
La Tourangelle also has Roasted Almond Oil, Roasted Walnut Oil, and Grapeseed Oil. Use any of the vinegars with one of these. These oils also may be used to make pesto or bruschetta, or as a topping for popcorn.
To add another variation, I use an assortment of vinegars: champagne vinegar, raspberry champagne vinegar, pinot grigio vinegar, sherry vinegar, and red wine vinegar. The varieties are only limited by your supermarket shelf. Note that a little vinegar goes a long way.
Spices and herbs may be gleaned from your cupboard from spice mixes such as Italian mix or oregano mix (oregano, garlic, dry mustard) or fresh herbs (basil, chives, tarragon, parsley, mint, etc.). It s amazing what you can create to dress a salad.
Balsamic vinegar and olive oil are another popular combination. Use dried basil, garlic, salt, and ground pepper. Sprinkle freshly grated parmesan over the salad.
If you make your own dressing, you are likely to use less on your salads.
You can even get ideas about combinations from commercial salad dressings in stores and restaurants.
Wish-Bone has introduced one-calorie per spray Salad Spritzers in three vinaigrette flavors: Balsamic Breeze with olive oil and garlic, Italian with white wine vinegar and flavors, and Red Wine Mist Cabernet with a lightly flavored oil that blends rich cabernet sauvignon with red wine vinegar and oil.
Good Seasons has Red Raspberry Vinaigrette with Poppyseed, Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette with Roasted Red Peppers, Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette, and Italian Vinaigrette.
According to Mintel Menu Insights, a resource that tracks national restaurant trends, more than 500 new entrees that use vinaigrette were on national menus in 2005. Leading vinaigrette flavors include balsamic, raspberry, red wine, Italian, and lemon. Emerging vinaigrette offerings include tamarind, black walnut, cranberry, salsa, shallot, and ginger.