So, I’ve been a little busy.
Ok, maybe I’ve been a little… sleepy. My recent change in schedule has left me with weird jet-leggy feels, and I am not really into it. I recently learned that Aldo’s coffee in Greenport is a good temporary solution to my problem, but probably not the the best for my health. I am almost certain the coffee is brewed from Sonic the hedgehogs adrenaline surplus.
A couple days ago we touched upon oils, and their various types & uses. Toward the end of the post I figured that it would be a good segue into vinaigrette & dressings. Something so simple is really easy to mess up, and when it is done incorrectly it can be pretty awful. Cheap store-bought dressing is awful guys. The dressing is mostly oil…and not good olive oil. Just clear, viscous, something-or-other. And there’s a bunch of dry herbs floating around just waiting to cling to your uvula with no mercy. That little bit of questionable vinegar at the bottom, just sadly swishing back and forth wishing it had more purpose. You can make something really, really great in minutes and I promise you will never look at those containers ever again.
There is a very basic way to think of a vinaigrette:
3 parts oil + 1 part acid + emulsifier = temporary emulsion (a.k.a. vinaigrette)
Because the oil is the biggest part of the equation, it should be of very high quality. Use only extra virgin olive oils, or really great seed oils. If you are making an Asian-style vinaigrette, stick to a high-quality sesame seed oil. Avoid clear oils, since they lack the one thing we want: flavor.
Emulsifiers: This ingredient is crucial because the oil and acid will not stay together at all without it. The most common emulsifier in dressings is mustard. But you can also use roasted garlic, egg yolk, fruit or vegetable purees.
Herbs and Seasonings: Herbs used in a dressing should be fresh to get the best flavor. If you want to get really into it, you can buy a few bottles of so-so olive oils and vinegar and infuse them with citrus zest, herbs, etc. This way, when you need a dressing all you have to do is emulsify and you are good to go.
Honey: …is my problem solver. If and when I ever mess up a dressing (which for some reason happens a lot more than I would like it to.) I add a tablespoon of honey and it sweetens it up and brings out so many more nuances of the acids. Go easy on it, because it will thin your dressing out.
Tools: The best emulsion comes from a mini-blender. The second best comes from shaking the bejesus out of it in a mason jar. The third best is whisking by hand in a bowl.
Photography by Ekeler Design
The Easiest, Best, Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 cup good extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar of Modena
2 tablespoons mustard (I used Grey Poupon)
1 tablespoon honey
2 pinches of salt
2 pinches fresh ground pepper
Put everything in a jar, and screw lid on tightly. Shake the bejesus out of it. Open it up and admire the viscosity of your homogeneous emulsion. You know it is a stable emulsion if it coats the back of a spoon without running. This is called nappé. Best served over local dark leafy greens or fresh tomatoes and mozzarella.
Here’s the best part of this recipe: You can use the exact same measurements but switch out the types of oils & acids.
My favorite mod is a Thai-style dipping dressing: sesame oil, rice vinegar, unsweetened peanut butter. A touch of soy sauce & honey.
Play on, playa…the possibilities are endless.