Sunday, February 17, 2013

Basic Salad Dressings

Lemon Parmesan Vinaigrette
Lemon Parmesan Vinaigrette (Photo credit: jazzijava)
Basic but Wow #1

I had a request this week to try and cover Basic Salad Dressings, Specifically a Cream or yogurt dressing and an Emulsified Vinaigrette. I will do my best to cover these in as basic a manner as I can. I’ll cover the last first as it is the more involved of the two subjects and seems to hold the most mystery for people.

Salad with vinaigrette dressing
Salad with vinaigrette dressing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Vinaigrette by definition is any dressing comprised of oil (Olive or Salad Oil) and vinegar (Normally Wine or Cider vinegar) mixed together. There are as many deferent styles of Vinaigrette as there are chefs. For my own taste I use a Red Wine Vinegar that I have seasoned and let age for at least a month so that the flavors from the seasonings have time to infuse (join with) the vinegar and mellow. Some of my favorite spices and herbs for this are basil, cayenne, white pepper, black pepper, mustard seed, caraway seed, tarragon, birds eye chili and of course the old standby garlic. There really is not a right or wrong mix and I encourage everyone to experiment and find the flavor profile that best meets their needs. Having the spiced vinegar prepared ahead makes it very easy to mix Vinaigrette. Just take one part vinegar in a bowl and slowly whisk in 3 parts oil. Shake up the vinegar before you pour it so that some of the aromatics flow with it.   There you have it, Instant salad dressing.

 Just as a note, I encourage everyone to make and have on hand seasoned oils and vinegars. They make experimenting so much easier and can be used to put an easy new twist on an old recipe. Using a Sweet Basil Oil instead of plane Olive Oil or a Tarragon Vinegar instead of your regular choice can really wake up some of your old favorites. If you ask I will do a separate post on this subject.

Now back to our lesson for the day. An emulsion is basically a mix that does not separate easily. So an Emulsified Vinaigrette is Vinaigrette that doesn’t separate and can be kept in your refrigerator for immediate use. There is no magic to this just chemistry. By adjusting the pH (acidity) of our mix and adding a bonding agent (optional) we not only make it possible to mix Vinaigrette but to make it stable in the mix.

Lucky 7 Shrimp Salad
Lucky 7 Shrimp Salad (Photo credit: MicheleColetteFrazier)
The most common and simplest way to lower the pH of your dressing is by adding Lemon Juice (I use Calamansi Juice but I live in the Philippines) and the most common bonding agent is egg. Some use the whole egg but my preference is to just use the egg yolk. It doesn’t dilute the spices as much and gives you a smooth textured dressing without the airiness that the whites can sometimes give you. Remember the egg is optional but I do recommend it. The process is not very complicated and you don’t need to understand the chemistry to make this Emulsified Vinaigrette. I will walk you through it here. I will use a whisking method as I am old school but feel free to use a mixer on medium if you prefer. It does take some energy to use a whisk through the entire process.

I will illustrate here a standard method as most of you will not have spiced vinegar prepared. This is just a basic tutorial on the method to prepare an Emulsified Vinaigrette, adapt it to your own favorite blend of herbs and spices. No two people have the same taste buds so learn to taste, experiment, and trust your taste. You are the Chef.

Basic Emulsified Vinaigrette

4½oz Olive Oil

3Tbs Wine Vinegar (Red or White)

Juice of ½ a lemon

1 Egg Yolk (optional)

1 tsp Sugar

. If you are going to use the Egg Yolk place it in a bowl with the Lemon Juice and whisk them together until they smooth. If you choose not to use the egg skip this step and just place your Lemon Juice in a bowl. Add your Vinegar, Mustard and Sugar, whisk (mix) these until well blended. Now, whisking continuously start adding your oil by drops at first and then as a slow steady stream as your dressing thins and accepts it. Refrigerate until needed. This dressing will hold for about two weeks if refrigerated. Enjoy!

Salad with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt a...
Salad with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There you have it, an Emulsified Vinaigrette, nothing mystical but magical in its taste. I have run a little longer than I intended on this subject but promise to return and cover Creamy Dressings soon. If you have questions about food or cooking, if you have a subject that you would like to see covered in the “Basic but Wow Sunday” blog, just let me know. Feel free to comment or make suggestions. Your input is always appreciated. You can leave them below or twit me @glovvornblog.
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