Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vinaigrette – big word, small effort

Let’s face it – salads often get the shaft.

If you’re preparing a meal – whether it be for your beau, your in-laws or just the run-of-the-mill weekday dinner for husband and kiddos – salads offer a great, easy option for the mandatory green side dish. After all, you can purchase bagged lettuce, pre-chopped carrots and a few grape tomatoes that require no cutting or slicing and voila! Instant side dish. Just set out the array of bottled salad dressings from your refridgerator and there you go.

[insert record scratch here] Hold the phone. Bottled salad dressing? Come on ladies – you can do so much better than that, and with very little effort. Take that salad from snooze to new, from banal to badass, from commonplace to commanding. All you need is a homemade vinaigrette. And no, it’s not hard.

To make a vinaigrette, you really only need four essential components:
1) an oil
2) an acid
3) a sweet
4) an emulsifier (which is just a big fancy word for an agent that emulsifies, or combines two unlike ingredients into one, be it a blender, food processor, immersion blender or your arm and a whisk)

*photo thanks to tipnut

With the above components, you can make a supreme accompaniment for any type of salad, according to any kind of palette.

For a summery, classic Italian vinaigrette:
Extra virgin olive oil (your oil)
Fresh-squeezed lemon juice (your acid)
Honey (your sweet)
Food processor

Pour the lemon juice and honey into your food processor; turn it on, and while the blade is whirling pour in the olive oil. Add a little salt and pepper and you’re done.

For a Tuscan Italian variation, substitute balsamic vinegar for the lemon juice.

Let’s say you want to make a vinaigrette for a salad to accompany a Tex-Mex meal. Try:
Vegetable oil
Lime juice
Food processor (or whatever you have – blender, immersion blender, etc. If you’re using your arm and a whisk, just do the same thing – pour the oil in while you stir vigorously. This is what emulsifies the oil and acid).

Add salt, pepper, cilantro and maybe a touch of cumin. Done.

Asian on the menu for tonight, you say?
A combo of sesame seed oil and canola oil (sesame seed oil is too strong to stand alone)
Orange juice/soy sauce mixture
Little bit of sugar

Combine as instructed above, and maybe add a little bit of fresh grated ginger (or the powdered kind you find on the spice rack), too.

See? Simple. Because one half of this Muse team doesn’t do complicated. No need to peform Cirque du Soleil type theatrics in the kitchen when you can impress with home-prepared simple ingredients and not a mass corporate manufacturer.

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