Summer is here and that means crisp fresh salads with all the season’s freshest ingredients. I can promise you that once you experience the ease and simplicity of a homemade vinaigrette – you will never look back.
A good vinaigrette is one that is made at home and with great ingredients. Like a family! This can provide a great foundation for all sorts of things. Besides the perfect thing to bring together the season’s freshest salad ingredients, it can be a nice dressing on pasta, among rice or quinoa with some nuts and dried fruit or even used as a marinade or light sauce. Have fun with these and enjoy your time around the table with family, friends or a simple quiet moment.
Chef Nina Viola
Light Balsamic Vinaigrette
I always make a double recipe! This is our go vinaigrette on the boat and we especially love it with a quinoa salad including sliced almonds, craisins and chick peas. Yum
6 tablespoons water
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 teaspoons minced shallot
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 medium garlic clove, minced or mashed (about 1 teaspoon) – optional
2 teaspoon minced fresh oregano leaves or 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon table salt or 1½ teaspoons coarse kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoon orange blossom honey
Note: 6 Tablespoons = ½ cup
Add shallot and vinegar to measuring cup and let sit while you gather and add other ingredients. Add the olive oil last and whisk until incorporated. You can also use an immersion blender. Season to taste with additional honey and additional tablespoon of water if needed. The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 7 days; bring to room temperature, then shake to recombine before using.
Chef’s Secret: Remember you can always add but you can’t take away. I like to use Diamond Kosher Salt in the galley because it is less dense, therefore less salty and the flakey texture distributes through the food well. You can find it in a big red box at most Publix supermarkets.
Sherry vinaigrette is especially great on a green salad with lots of fresh veggies. Our Ensalada Verde includes julienned snow peas and green apple, romaine, watercress, arugula and fresh pea shoots. Add whatever you have: asparagus, endive, radishes, celery, carrot or avocado – it’s all good!!
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons very finely chopped shallot
1½ teaspoons finely chopped thyme
1½ teaspoons whole grain mustard
1½ teaspoons orange blossom honey
¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and pepper to taste
Add shallot and vinegar to the measuring cup and let sit while you gather and add other ingredients. Let it sit at least 10 minutes and let it do it’s magic. Add the olive oil last and whisk until incorporated. You can also use an immersion blender. Season to taste with additional honey, olive oil and salt and pepper if needed. The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 7 days; bring to room temperature, then shake to recombine before using. Yields: 1 ¾ Cups
Chef’s secret: You will notice that we always add the shallot to the vinegar first. I have yet to discover what the actual chemical reaction is. Recall how great the marinated red onions are in a Greek Salad and it’s the same effect.
The perfect niçoise salad is a beautiful thing. I have had the pleasure to enjoy this classic at the very top of Pic Paradis St. Maarten, British Virgin Islands in the Swan Valley, West Australia and even in the kitchens of Le Cordon Bleu, Ottawa. Great friends, a bottle of Rosé and this salad is perfection.
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced shallot
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper, to taste
sugar to taste
Add shallot, garlic and vinegar to measuring cup and let sit while you gather and add other ingredients. Add the olive oil last and whisk until incorporated. You can also use an immersion blender. Season to taste with sugar, and salt and pepper if needed. If you don’t need any more base (fat, and in this case, olive oil) you can balance it with a small amount of sugar. The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 7 days; bring to room temperature, then shake to recombine before using. Yields: 1 ¼ cup
Chef’s secret: Adding sugar to an acidic sauce or dressing is a great chef’s secret to have up your sleeve. If you have ever tasted a sauce or dressing that gives a slight burn in the back of your throat you will know it isn’t balanced.
Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Have you ever had a pile of apples and didn’t know what to do with them? The solution is the Harvest Salad. Start with some fresh baby spinach leaves and add what you have…chopped apples, pears, walnuts, pecans, craisins, bacon, blue cheese, goat cheese or whatever you like. Did you know an apple gives you as much energy as a cup of coffee? Pure fuel for the fire here!
1/3 cup sugar (you can substitute honey or agave nectar)
½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ cup canola oil
salt & pepper to taste
Add all ingredients except canola oil in a large measuring cup. Add the oil last and whisk or blend until incorporated. You can also use an immersion blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Chef’s Secret: Using an immersion blender when making vinaigrettes at home is a big time saver. You just add all the ingredients right to a large measuring cup, measuring at the same time you add the liquids, and blend while adding the oil. Just make sure you use a 4 cup volume, minimum. Trust me on this one!
Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette
This is the perfect vinaigrette for an impromptu green salad. For a small batch, nothing is better than the flavors that come from freshly ground herbs and garlic in a mortar and pestle. Try this vinaigrette in a salad with tomatoes, arugula and buffalo mozzarella.
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
¾ teaspoon fleur de sel
1 small or ½ large clove of garlic – optional
1 ½ tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar – optional
(I sometimes like to substitute fresh lemon juice)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Using mortar and pestle, pound oregano, optional garlic, and ¼ teaspoon fleur de sel into a paste. Transfer paste, or leave in the mortar bowl if you have room, and stir in both red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegars (or lemon juice). Whisk in olive oil to form vinaigrette.
Chef’s Secret: For a small batch, nothing is better than the flavors that develop from freshly ground herbs and garlic in a mortar and pestle. Hold the bowl stationary and use the pestle the grind your fresh herbs, seeds or make a paste with garlic and salt. Course salts work best and it really brings the garlic through the recipe versus having bursts of garlic flavor throughout. Perfect for dips like guacamole too. Also, a lot of dried seasonings can be enhanced by grinding right before use, coriander and fennel seeds are a good example.
While there are always new food trends, a great Caesar salad will never go out of style. Add homemade croutons to crisp romaine, some shaved Parmesan on the top and prepare for the salad version of comfort food. If you want to add a modern flair, you can grill halves of baby romaine hearts along with grilled lavash bread and shaved Parmesan for a “Grilled Caesar.” Either way, a great Caesar dressing is a necessity.
1 large egg, at room temperature
freshly squeezed juice of ½ lemon
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 oil-packed anchovy fillets, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste)
3 dashes Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more for seasoning
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Place the egg in boiling water for 2 minutes. Rinse in cold water and break into a small bowl. Add the lemon juice, garlic, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, anchovy fillets, Tobasco, and salt and whisk to combine. Alternatively, in a mortar or pestle, make a paste of the garlic, salt and anchovy and then add lemon, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and Tobasco. While whisking, slowly pour in the olive oil until well blended and the dressing slightly thickens. Stir in half of the grated Parmigiano cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Chef’s Secret: If you are worried about eating raw eggs, you can put the egg in boiling water for 40 seconds before using the yolk. It’s a sort of pasteurizing process. Just remember to crack the egg over a separate bowl first the get rid of the white. Also, you won’t want to use the immersion blender with this recipe. You will have a paste instead of a nice hearty dressing.
Honey – Bourbon Poppy Seed Dressing
This dressing couldn’t be simpler and is stellar on a chopped salad.
1 cup dijon mustard
¾ cup red wine vinegar
¾ cup orange blossom honey
½ cup bourbon
1½ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
In a bowl, whisk mustard, vinegar, honey and bourbon. Or blend using an immersion blender in a large cup. Gradually add the oil, whisking vigorously until well blended. Add sugar to balance if you desire a less tangy taste. When dressing no longer separates, mix in poppy seeds. Use what you need and store the rest in the refrigerator.
Chef’s Secret: Whenever a dressing, sauce or marinade has a nice combination of something sweet, like honey, paired with something tangy, like bourbon, and a good base, like mustard and oil – you can bet it will be a winner.