Sunday, June 28, 2009

How to Make the Best Vinaigrette

Spring and summer are fabulous seasons for fresh green salads from your local farmers' market. Let's be realistic here, though: your family (and you) probably won't eat salad unless it tastes really good. The first trick for making a good salad is, of course, getting the delicious greens (baby or otherwise) at the farmers' market - I've already written about this in my entry on Gorgeous Greens, and I've even told you how to ensure you actually get around to EATING them, which is key. The second trick to a mouthwatering salad is making a great dressing, and that's what I'm going to teach you how to do right now.

This is not a difficult recipe, and no I didn't come up with this method myself (though I wish I could say I did). I perfected this method for my own use after reading about it in Alice Waters's The Art of Simple Food. You will need only four ingredients:
  1. a good extra-virgin olive oil - buy the best you can afford; it really doesn't pay to buy the Walmart brand, for example. You want an olive oil that tastes great all by itself, which will ensure it will taste great on your lettuce. I have been loyal to Olio Beato organic extra-virgin olive oil for some time now; it's certified unrefined, first cold-pressed, all Italian olives, comes in an opaque bottle, etc. - all the things you want from a good olive oil (though if you prefer American or Spanish or Moroccan olives that's fine, too! The point is to get what you're paying for; many brands will claim to be 100% Italian, but really they contain a lot of inferior oil from other countries).
  2. vinegar - I use raw apple cider vinegar which is yummy; red wine vinegar is great, too. Raw, unpasteurized vinegar is best as it contains lots of beneficial enzymes and good bacteria. I have made a great dressing with a fairly cheap white wine vinegar from the local grocery store, though. So just use what you have.
  3. sea salt - I always recommend Celtic sea salt which is delicious, unrefined, unbleached, and full of trace minerals. Please throw away your canister of Morton's or other similar refined synthetic table salt; that stuff is garbage and very bad for your health (causing all sorts of problems including hypertension), whereas Celtic sea salt is actually GOOD for you.
  4. fresh-ground black pepper
In a small bowl whisk together 2 tbsp. vinegar and a pinch of sea salt. When the salt dissolves, taste the vinegar and see if you like the flavor. Continue adding pinches of salt and whisking until the sourness of the vinegar is perfectly balanced by the salt; you will be amazed at the flavor when you reach this point - it is nothing short of remarkable!

Next whisk in about 4-6 tbsp. of olive oil. Pause after the fourth tbsp. and taste, then add more oil if you like. When you have again reached the balance you like grind in plenty of fresh black pepper...and voila! your perfect vinaigrette has been created. Now, some people like to get fancy and add all sorts of other ingredients, which is fine - but if you just want to stick with this simple dressing rest assured it will make any salad fabulous!

This makes enough for 6-8 servings.

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