Sunday, March 9, 2008

Real Food II: Vinaigrette

Store-bought salad dressing is a crime against humanity.

'Ranch', '1000 Island' and other industrial monstrosities are a good way to put yourself underground in a hurry. From bottom-rung oils to artificial preservatives, they contain some of the most frightening ingredients you're likely to see in a grocery store.

Homemade salad dressing is one of the simplest, tastiest and healthiest recipes I know. If made properly, it's creamy, light and flavorful.
I consider it my civic duty to spread the word about homemade salad dressing, also known as vinaigrette.

For a medium-sized salad, put two tablespoons of vinegar into your empty salad bowl. Add a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of dijon mustard. Add three tablespoons of olive oil and stir until it's creamy and homogenous. That's it! Add your salad, toss and enjoy. The tossing is essential.

I always use extra-virgin olive oil. My favorite vinegar is unpasteurized, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. You may add garlic, tarragon, mint, basil, green onions or miso to your dressing for extra flavor.


lesitedanais said...

I could not agree more with you on the topic of vinaigrette, if you think about it why would you buy it? It takes a minute to make your own.
Your blog is great Stephan, reading a post a day keeps the doctor away. I'll put it in my RSS feed. Keep up the good work and long live the sauerkraut.

Anna said...

I'm in complete agreement, too. It hardly takes any time to make most vinegar/oil dressings and isn't exactly rocket science. Yet salad dressing is one of the questionable industrial foods that few people even think to change as they try to adopt healthier eating habits.

Sometimes I make dressing each day for a particular salad, and sometimes I make enough for several days of salads.

My son got hooked on Ranch dressing at his friends' houses and asked for it at home. So I started making my own. Even this type of dressing is super easy. The single potentially complicating factor in most homemade Ranch dressing recipes is the mayonnaise. There are few, if any, good commercial mayo options, and there are some issues with making mayo, such as salmonella, especially if using conventionally raised eggs. I do have access to eggs from a local "hobby" farm so I think the chance of salmonella contamination is much less (I do wash the egg shells first in very hot water when using raw eggs). So I make the mayo for the Ranch dressing, but in this case I use a plain olive oil rather than extra virgin, otherwise the flavor is just too strong. And now that I have gotten in the habit of making a weekly batch of real mayo, it's hard to even think about buying a jar of it again, even if I could find one made with ingredients I find acceptable.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Salut Anais! Benvenue au blog.

I think many people buy salad dressing because they don't know how easy it is to make.

Anna, I'm glad you brought up mayonnaise, I'm going to cover that too at some point.

I've been eating real mayo made with raw egg yolk for my entire life and I've never gotten food poisoning from it. I think the risk of getting chronically poisoned by processed food is higher than getting acutely poisoned by raw eggs.

Debs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debs said...

Store-bought salad dressing is indeed a crime against humanity! Ranch dressing is the root of all evil in this world, from its drowning of salads to its menacing position on ubiquitous catering-style vegetable trays. Even the smell makes me gag.

It disturbs me especially that the general public, in their [in]digestion of only the most basic information about health, places salad squarely into the "healthful" category of foods, never questioning the wholesomeness of what they pour all over the poor salad. Find wall. Bang head. Repeat.

Other variations I like: adding lemon juice, finely chopped shallots, or fresh black pepper. Sometimes in the summer I'll marinate fresh basil, shallots, and ripe, chopped cherry tomatoes in the vinaigrette for a little while, and then eat that over a simple lettuce salad.

You make delicious vinaigrette, and are the only other person I've ever entrusted with the dressing-making responsibilities.

Keep the great posts coming!

Stephan Guyenet said...

Thanks Debs! Welcome to the blog.

The Rug Merchant's Son said...


Well written as usual, complete with sarcasm and wit. I fear one day you may be assassinated by Kraft or Skippy, but we can hope for the best.
I just signed up and plan to read your blog often. I enjoy making the dressing that you posted about, and honestly it tastes so much better.

I would like to bum a curry recipe, when you have some time.


Stephan Guyenet said...

Koury, welcome to the blog!

Yeah I keep getting these phantom phone calls where all I hear is a click when I pick up, and what's up with the Nestle van across the street with all the antennas coming out of it?!

Anonymous said...

If I knew nothing more about you than the opening sentence of this post (actually, I do know nothing more about you than the opening sentence of this post), that would be enough to get me hooked on your blog.

Vinaigrette has to be the fastest, easiest and most forgiving of all recipes. Somehow we got this idea back in the 80s that vinaigrette is tricky - I'm sure some of my older cookbooks advise great care in its preparation - but that is so not true.

If I ever have a child, I think vinaigrette will be the first recipe I teach. It doesn't require a knife (while you can of course embellish it with chopped garlic or shallots or herbs, they are not required), a heat source, electric appliances, or even precise measurements.

Plus, though it costs you more upfront, because of course you will be buying high quality oils, in the long run you will get way more servings per dollar out of homemade vinaigrette than that junk in a bottle.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Migraineur,

Glad to see you on the blog. If it helps you to get to know me a little, I post as "Sasquatch" on MDA.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Sasquatch! Nice to meet (re-meet?) you!

Susan said...

Try lemon juice (fresh) instead of vinegar. It's delicious--less 'pickling' of leftover greens also.

Unknown said...

I like vinaigrette made with orange juice and nut oil. Those who are worried about eggs can buy commercially produced vegan mayonnaise. They usually use good quality ingredients.

Geoffrey Grimm said...

Stephen or Anna,
Can you forward me to or suggest a good recipe for home-made mayo? egg yolk, olive oil, acidity..proportions?

Side note - stephen, I haven't officially subscribed since I have the blog bookmarked, but thank you for taking the time to offer an honest and genuinely curious voice to the food/nutrition discourse. It's hard enough to understand the human body and how to best take care of each individual organism let alone trying to navigate the number of voices with "all the right answers." It's too bad your blog isn't a part of public school reading curriculum! Anyway, thanks again for the effort you put into our free education and take care!