I think there is nothing better than a fresh salad with a tasty vinaigrette – which basically means good olive oil, vinegar (balsamic is my favorite) + some dijon mustard for extra zip, perhaps a dash of honey and some mashed garlic cloves. We eat it with almost every dinner, so I keep a jar on hand (in an old salsa jar – I keep adding extra ingredients when it gets low!) And since the report on the Mediterranean Diet was so positive, isn’t it time to throw out that bottle of Ranch and check out the olive oil shelf?
So, what’s there to know about basic vinaigrette?
- you need a good virgin olive oil. They range in price quite a bit, but they are not all expensive. Kirklands (Costco brand) is a pretty good bargain, I think.
- you need a nice vinegar. I really like balsamic, and there are many brands. Since it has become popular in the last couple of decades, there are many manufacturers so the quality varies a lot. If you haven’t used it before I would suggest buying a small bottle in the mid-range in your grocery store (or perhaps something on sale) and try it. Don’t like balsamic, look around, there are so many vinegars on the market now, you’re sure to find one that pleases. And you know, these days there are oil and vinegar stores in lots of malls – with tasting areas so you can try them all until you find the perfect one.
- dijon mustard
- several cloves of garlic, mashed
- salt & pepper
- optional: 1 teaspoon honey
Method: to make one cup (8 ounces) of vinaigrette
- In jar with lid, add 1/4 cup vinegar
- Add 3/4 cup olive oil (3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar)
- Add 1-2 teaspoons dijon mustard (or more if you like the flavor of mustard)
- 1-2 teaspoons honey
- 3-4 whole garlic cloves, peeled and mashed
- a little salt & pepper
- Place the lid on tightly. Shake. Shake. Shake. (or whiskwhiskwhisk).
That’s it folks, it’s ready to use. A cup of dressing is a lot, use it sparingly and then reseal, refrigerate and store for next salad time.
- Red wine vinegar (I like to add more mustard and maybe some fresh thyme or oregano)
- Sherry Vinegar – a little sweet, (probably best to omit the garlic, maybe a sprig of fresh rosemary instead?)
- Fig Balsamic – my recent most favorite – you could taste the undertone of fig- really yummy.
- You can easily modify the tart factor – just change the ratio of vinegar to oil. And you may find that when you used different kinds of vinegar (say red wine instead of balsamic) you need to adjust the ratio.
OK, now you have your dressing, what are you going to put it on?
- Try a mix of greens like spinach, arugula & romaine (good sources of phytonutrients and fiber, low on carbs and cholesterol)
- Add some toasted nuts of your choice (protein and good fat – walnuts are healthy and a pretty good buy)
- A little cheese please (light on the cheese, choose a good one)
- Other veggies, like cucumber or tomatoes, peppers (more phytonutrients and good fiber)
- or Fruit if you prefer (like cranberries, raisins, pears or apples (ditto)
- More protein if you like (could be chicken, tuna, leftover sliced beef, turkey, hard boiled egg)
- Throw in some garbanzos or lentils for even more protein and fiber
- Avocado, olives (more healthy fat)
Now that’s a salad — there are so many things to do with a basic salad and vinaigrette.
Bag o’ Salad: this is an old catering trick. If you’re making salad for a crowd, put your ingredients in an (unused) plastic trash bag. Keeping some air in it, twist the top and shake the contents back/forth and up/down. Add some vinaigrette, shake again. Repeat process, adding vinaigrette as you need to, until salad is nicely dressed and tossed. Then, turn it into your favorite salad bowl – avoid salad all over the place!