A vinaigrette, or French salad dressing, in its simplest form is one part vinegar or lemon juice to three or four parts olive or vegetable oil. It is seasoned with a little salt and pepper. Mixed extremely well just before using, the vinaigrette is smooth and delicate tasting; if not well blended, it can be harsh and oily. If the oil and vinegar used have excellent flavor, nothing else is needed to sauce a mixed green salad.
Dijon mustard is often used as a basic ingredient by many chefs. Besides adding flavor to the vinaigrette, it also acts as an emulsifier, holding the oil and vinegar in suspension longer. Other ingredients added to a vinaigrette are fresh-chopped herbs, chopped shallots, chopped hard-boiled egg, and garlic.
Fresh herbs can go over your salad or in the dressing, and I often shred a hard-boiled egg over a salad enhancing both its flavor and appearance.
I generally keep a bottle of vinaigrette in the refrigerator ready to use, shaking it well just before pouring it over a salad.
Using the proportions shown here, it’s easy to scale this recipe up or down. I use a blender to help whenever making large quantities of the dressing.
Yield: Makes 1¾ cups
3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, to taste
1 garlic clove, halved (see Notes)
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¾ cup light vegetable oil, such as soy, sunflower, or peanut
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon light olive oil
1. In a small bowl or jar, mix the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper together.
2. Add the vegetable and olive oils and mix all ingredients until well blended and smooth the. Blend well again just before using.
If you want to use either all vegetable oil or all olive oil in the vinaigrette instead of the blend here, keep in mind the proportions that follow.
Olive Oil Vinaigrette: Three parts oil to one part vinegar or lemon juice.
Vegetable Oil Vinaigrette: Four parts oil to one part vinegar or lemon juice. If the vegetable oil you use has a strong flavor, use the ratio of 3:1 instead.
Because garlic can overpower a salad, add a halved garlic clove instead of chopped garlic to the dressing. In this way you can remove it when the dressing has acquired sufficient garlic flavor.
When entertaining, I make the dresing keeping in mind what I am serving before and after the salad. For example, if garlic is not present in the other dishes, I do not use it in the vinaigrette.