Dana Slatkin

How to Make a Vinaigrette

Making VinaigretteOne of the questions I am most often asked in my classes is, “How do I make a salad taste good?”

The simplest answer is to make a vinaigrette from scratch. So why has the salad dressing section of supermarkets taken over nearly half the aisle? Because most people don’t realize that homemade salad dressing tastes far better and costs much less money and effort than buying one off the shelf.

I’ve probably made a thousand salads in my life, and each one of them began with this formula. It’s the recipe I learned in my first week of cooking school, one that I’ve kept in my head like a mantra: 1 part acid, 2 parts oil, a smidgen of garlic and mustard, plenty of seasoning.

Whether you like your vinaigrette creamy (emulsified) or simply shaken together (separated), you’ll want to combine the ingredients in the order below. (The reason, to make a long story short, is that the vinegar and salt tame the garlic a bit before meeting up with the oil). The mustard acts as the middleman, uniting two reluctant partners harmoniously.

If you are cooking solo, try this handy trick to stabilize the mixing bowl so you can whisk with one hand while pouring the oil with the other: Roll up a dish towel, then coil it under your bowl like a cradle. Easier still, use a jar to shake all the ingredients together. The magic will still happen, I promise.

What I love about vinaigrettes is that the possibilities are endless, and there’s always room for improvising. Play with additions such as anchovy paste, Worcestershire sauce, aioli (or mayonnaise), miso paste, fresh herbs, and spices (cumin, sumac, Herbes de Provence, or smoked paprika. The mixture will keep well in the refrigerator for up to a week (The oil may solidify, preserving the ingredients even longer).

This recipe makes about 6 ounces, enough to dress a salad for 6 to 8 and save some for the next time. Once you’ve gathered up your greens and veggies, make sure everything is coated well (Mixing the salad with gloved hands helps). Then enjoy your artisanal salad, knowing now there’s one less supermarket aisle to navigate.


Here are some of my favorite salads for February, all suitable for your Valentine! Winter Chopped Salad with Champagne-Honey Vinaigrette; Quinoa Salad with Feta, Corn, Olives and Mediterranean Vinaigrette; and Arugula Salad with Creamy Parmesan-Hemp Dressing.
Kyosera knife
Don’t miss a chance to win this Kyocera ceramic knife and donate to breast cancer research. Enter our February Giveaway here.

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