Dress That Salad

13 12 2009

I’ve already talked about how much I love emulsions. The easiest salad dressing in the world is oil and vinegar… but is it possible to make oil and vinegar a little better? Fo sho. Usually when you pour it on you get a big pool of oil soaking your lettuce and then the vinegar just kinda slides off to the bottom of the bowl… if you actually care about what your salad tastes like, this is pretty frustrating. For me it’s especially frustrating because half the time I “make” salad the only thing I use is mixed greens. By emulsifying the oil and vinegar your dressing actually hangs around long enough for you to taste it.

I’ve never been a fan of bottled salad dressing… it’s always too sweet or fruity or too thick and creamy. So a while back I started making a super simple emulsified vinaigrette with a little bit of dijon, oil and vinegar. It’s really simple, versatile and I can add or remove anything I want to assuming there is, at the very least, oil, dijon mustard and some acidic liquid involved. You can use another kind of mustard – it’s just something to kick start the emulsion. I prefer dijon because I like how intense the flavor is.

So you start with the mustard and add a little bit of vinegar (or whatever you’re using) and then add the oil very very very slowly. Literally a drop* at a time at first for maybe the first 5-10 drops until it’s starting to thicken up. After that you can pour the oil in a thin stream as long as you keep stirring quickly to incorporate it a little at a time. As your dressing grows in volume you can add more oil incrementally.


If you’re making a lot of dressing you’ll have to add a little more vinegar as your dressing grows to make sure there are enough water molecules for the oil to cling to or your emulsion will break. This isn’t the most stable emulsion in the world so I like to make it right before I’m ready to dress the salad.

Making your own vinaigrette is so easy it’s almost stupid to use anything else… you can do whatever you want to it to make it match your salad. Some combinations/ingredients I’ve used or you could use:

olive oil
sesame oil (just a few drops for flavor)
vegetable oil
grapeseed oil

Vinegar or other acidic liquid:
balsamic vinegar
rice wine vinegar
lemon juice
lime juice
kimchi juice
pickle juice
caper juice

soy sauce
– fresh herbs

Approximately 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar to .5 part dijon

Think about what’s in the salad and what else you’re eating it with. My standard is usually just olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. If I’m having something Asian for dinner, I’ll add a few drops of seasame oil and use rice wine vinegar instead of balsamic. Bottom line – there are no rules. I say it all the time but the possibilities really are endless.

*A tip about adding the oil slow enough in the beginning – I like to pour a little oil onto the spoon i’m using to stir the dressing and let it slide down to the tip of the spoon and it kindof incorporates itself naturally a little at a time as i’m stirring. This way I avoid accidentally adding too much at once.




2 responses

9 03 2010

Nice post on something simple, but oft overlooked. Love the idea of using kimchi juice! That, is brilliant!

17 05 2010
Cobb Salad « Freestyle Cooking

[…] of my standard vinaigrette that was a little heavier on the mustard and had a little bit of honey in there to sweeten it […]

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