Vegetables are in high demand in both markets and on dinner tables, due in part to their being appropriate for the season and appealing, and also thanks to the desire of many to return to eating healthy foods after having eaten lots of rich, starchy comfort foods throughout the winter. Besides the more traditional methods of preparing vegetables, such as grilling, roasting, sautéing, or steaming them, an alternative method of preparation is to serve them as crudit’s, served uncooked with a tasty dressing. Fresh, tender salad greens are complemented in an excellent manner by vinaigrettes or other salad dressings. Instead of spending money store-bought versions of salad dressing, however, you should use staples that are readily available in your own kitchen to create your own dressings. In this way, your dressing will be freshly-made, without any preservatives, and you can decide how much or how little you wish to make each time.
Dressings are also easy and simple to prepare. The following are several recipes and tips that you can use to create three basic types of salad dressing.
While the saying that “oil and water do not mix” is a common one, in the case of vinaigrettes, oil and vinegar come together to create the perfect blend of ingredients. They mix to form a temporary emulsion that can be used to flavor and moisten delicate salads and greens.
Basic preparation: First, select a mildly acidic ingredient such as rice vinegar, dry un-oaked white wine, or orange juice. If your preference in tastes runs to the tart and assertive, then you should consider sherry or red wine vinegar. White wine vinegar falls between these two categories in terms of taste.
Oils can be classified as being neutral and having little flavor, such as canola oil or light olive oil, or they can be flavorful, in the case of sesame or hazelnut oils or the more peppery extra-virgin olive oils. If you prefer a more balanced flavor, then you can combine a flavorful oil with a more neutral one. In this way, the flavor of the oil will not overwhelm that of the other ingredients.
In order to counter the acidity of the vinegar, you must use the correct amount of oil. Most vinaigrettes use one part of vinegar for every three parts of oil, although some people use a one-to-one ratio or even a one-to-four ratio, depending on individual tastes.
Next, shape a damp towel into a ring and place a small bowl inside it. This will hold the bowl steady while you whisk its contents. Place the vinegar in the bowl and add a pinch of salt to it. Then, while whisking continuously, add the oil slowly, starting with drops before increasing the rate to a thin stream. This will ensure that the emulsion forms properly.
Variations: You can add ingredients such as mustard, garlic puree, minced shallots, or thick sauces like mayonnaise to the mixture to both stabilize the emulsion and add to its flavor. These extra ingredients should be added to the vinegar before you whisk the oil in. Adding a little mayonnaise to your vinaigrette will give it a gentle smoothness and a slight creamy appearance. Any ground spices that you intend to use should first be toasted and bloomed “light heated” in some hot oil. If you wish to use chopped, fresh herbs, however, you can simply add them just before you serve your dish.
vinaigrette, spring salad, oil and vinegar dressing
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