Here at Cook’s Fresh Market we pride ourselves on the fact that our trained culinary team of chefs and cooks make many of our prepared foods, including items like our aioli sauces and our spreads and dressings but a balsamic vinaigrette dressing is not some closely guarded secret made mysterious by a celebrity or gourmet chef. A good tasting vinaigrette is easy to make, and healthy for you. Oil and vinegar salad dressings or vinaigrette recipes can be made by those who have not attended a culinary institute.
Times have sure changed since Seven Sea’s Italian Dressing and Wishbone’s Green Goddess sat on every store shelf as salad dressing staples. Remember when we thought “Original Ranch” was a vast improvement for our salad dressing repertoire, and store bought bacon bits were a hit? Then packaged spring mixed greens became available, and pine nuts were considered healthy and… just a moment; you still buy bottled salad dressings?
Our quest for “lighter fare” and “healthy greens” in our diet, has led us down a daunting path, searching for that elusive ‘healthy salad dressing.’ Low carbs, low cholesterol, and “healthy for all that ails you,” has become a must. So what is it, that we should, (or better yet) ‘are allowed’ to put on top of our salad that’s good for you?
Today we walk down the salad dressing aisle in a gourmet food store and behold the gourmet condiments from floor to eye level. Organic spreads, sauces, and accoutrements. Wine vinegars, infused oils, and herb flavored vinaigrettes. Some endorsed by celebrities. Some seen on TV. Some made by celebrities, (yeah, right). Some made on a distant island, in some strange sounding place. (We move on a step further.) We shake our head at Modena consortium, imported Spanish, and California Napa Balsamic vinegars. A huge question mark appears over our heads as we gaze at Aceto, Traditional, aged, and Special Blends. We mutter, “What hath God Wrought?” Inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, couldn’t have verbalized our incredulous thoughts more accurately.
A simple oil and vinegar salad dressing, why is the degree of difficulty exponential? It needn’t be. A simple vinaigrette dressing recipe can be made easily, from simple ingredients, be healthy for you, and actually taste great.
The key ingredients in a vinaigrette dressing, is a traditional aged balsamic vinegar, and an excellent olive oil. You don’t have to spend a fortune for the balsamic either. We have some excellent choices in our market.
Your balsamic vinaigrette dressing will go great with other dishes besides a salad, too. A balsamic vinaigrette is outstanding with fresh lobster and scallops, artichokes and asparagus. A balsamic dressing also goes well with fresh sliced tomatoes or steamed vegetables and greens.
A balsamic dressing recipe can be altered to your individual taste. The normal proportions for a balsamic vinaigrette dressing are one part balsamic vinegar to three parts olive oil, with seasoning of salt, pepper and Dijon mustard. A rule of thumb is one teaspoonful of mustard for every half cup of salad dressing. The flavor of balsamic vinegar is rich and intense, and with a delicate olive oil you may want to use proportions of one part vinegar to four or five of olive oil. Other herbs and spices will enhance a balsamic vinaigrette, such as chives and sage. Even a bit of finely grated fresh ginger root will add zest to your dressing. It is all a question of how you want your finished dressing to taste.
Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing Recipe (that you can make yourself)
3 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed through a garlic press
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Use a blender to mix the ingredients. It will produce a thicker vinaigrette dressing. One serving will equal 2 to 3 tablespoons of dressing. One cup should easily be enough for 6 to 8 servings of mixed green salad. Refrigerate and store in a covered container. Whisk well before serving.