Introduction: Regional Vinaigrettes

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Whose fridge door is so filled with condiments and dressings you can't squeeze another thing in them? How many of those dressings are either expired or have been opened and used only once? This quick tutorial will show you how quick and easy it is to make a vinaigrette suitable for any cuisine you choose. All you need to know is the proper ratios and what ingredients are from which regions. These vinaigrettes also make great marinades.

Step 1: Emulsifiers

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Step 1. In a mixing bowl add your emulsifier.

An emulsifier is what holds oil and vinegar together. To have any hope of having your oil and vinegar combine, you must start with an emulsifier. You only need a small amount, maybe 1 Tablespoon for a 1-2 cup batch. I like to combine about 1 Tablespoon of each Honey and Mustard.

Emulsifiers:

Mustard - Most common are Dijon or Spicy Brown, but you can get creative using sweet or hot mustards.

Egg - Traditionally found in Caesar Dressing, but you can also use mayonnaise(which is made from eggs).

Honey - Clover and Orange Blossom work great. Buckwheat can be a little strong.

Fruit - If you are making a fruity vinaigrette, puree any fruit you can find, be creative.

Step 2: Vinegar

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Step 2. Add your vinegar.

Obviously we will need a vinegar since we are making a vinaigrette. This is where you must decide your prominent flavor of your vinaigrette. The possibilities are endless. I have listed some vinegars from several regions, as well as some fun ones to play with. You will also decide your amount of final product here. The general ratio for a vinaigrette is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil (1:3).

Example - 1/3 cup vinegar to 1 cup oil.

I am a big fan of vinegar, so I usually bump it up to 2 parts vinegar to 3 parts oil (2:3).

Vinegars:

Italian - Red Wine Vinegar

Mediterranean - Balsamic Vinegar

Asian - Rice Wine Vinegar

Southwestern - Lime Juice (not vinegar, but any citrus fruit works too.)

Fruit vinegars - Apple Cider, Infused Vinegars (Pomegranate, Raspberry, Peach, etc.)

Step 3: Herbs & Seasoning

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Step 3. Add your herbs and seasonings.

This will add a fresh flavor to your vinaigrette. I always prefer fresh over dried herbs, but dried herbs will rehydrate in your vinaigrette, so they can be used. You can add flavored salts now, such as smoked or lemon salt, but save seasoning salt for the end. You will only need a pinch of salt and about a Tablespoon of fresh herbs. If using dried cut back to 1 teaspoon of herbs to start with. This is a good time to add fresh garlic also.

Herbs and Seasonings:

Italian - Basil, Oregano, Garlic
Mediterranean - Thyme, Rosemary, Garlic
Asian - Ginger, Lemongrass, Cilantro, Thai Basil
Southwestern - Cilantro

Step 4: Oil

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Step 4. Slowly whisk in your oil.

This is an important step to make your dressing hold together. Slowly pour you oil in as you whisk. Roll up a kitchen towel and make a circle to hold your mixing bowl, while you whisk. Be careful with strong flavored oils, they can be overpowering. You can often mix these with a neutral oil, such as canola, to tone them down.

Oil:

Italian - Olive Oil
Mediterranean - Grape Seed Oil
Asian - Sesame Oil (very strong), Peanut Oil
Southwestern - Chili Pepper Oil
Flavored Oils - Walnut, Hazelnut, Truffle (also very strong).

Step 5: Picking Your Greens

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Step 5. Pour a small amount of vinaigrette over your greens and toss until coated.

Be careful not to overdress your greens, they will wilt. The possibilities are endless for this step. I generally use whatever I have in my fridge, but different greens can bring out different flavors in your vinaigrette. Many greens are mixed for convenience at your local store, but can often be purchased separate. The new trend is petite greens, smaller versions of these greens for better presentation.

Greens:

Italian - Arugula, Frisee, Escarole
Mediterranean - Romaine, Radicchio
Asian - Mizuna, Iceberg
Southwestern - Baby Beet, Watercress
Other popular Greens - Butter, Mache, Oak Leaf, Loose Leaf

Step 6: Toppings

Step 6. Top it off.

Okay, now it's time to finish off your salad with whatever you have available. This is my fridge clean out time. I love lots of flavors and textures in my salad. Think outside veggies, fruit and nuts go great. Be creative!

Toppings:

Italian - Tomato, Parmesan, Croutons, Red Onion, Fresh Mozzarella, Pepperoni or Salami
Mediterranean - Sun Dried Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Feta Cheese, Pepperoncini
Asian - Cucumbers, Carrots, Sesame Seeds, Rice Noodles, Green Onion, Red or Orange Bell Peppers
Southwestern - Mango, Avocado, Tortilla Strips, Jalapenos, Salsa, Corn Black Beans, Sour Cream
Other popular Items - Any nut or cheese, Craisins or other dried fruit

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