The vinaigrettes are multifunctional and can be used for making salads, marinating, they can be used as a sauce for fish and seafood, as well as a steamed vegetable dressing.
These vinaigrettes are emulsions - that is a mixture of two liquids, consisting of microscopic droplets of one liquid, distributed in another liquid, so that complete mixing of these liquids does not occur, but over time the emulsions spontaneously break down. Imagine a mixture of water and oil in a jar: if you shake the jar for a long time, these liquids will mix and it will seem to you that the mixture is homogeneous, but if you leave it for a while, a layer of oil will appear above the water layer.
Emulsions can be stable and unstable:
- unstable emulsions - vinaigrettes (from the French vinaigre - vinegar) are based on oil and vinegar (or other acid such as lemon juice), microscopic drops of vinegar are dispersed in the oil, this mixture will decay over time;
- stable emulsions - dressings are based on unstable emulsions and protein, that is why this mixture doesn’t decay; egg yolk, mustard and milk products can be used as protein; perhaps, the most popular example of this sauce is mayonnaise.
Let’s talk about oil
I have already written an article about it, but now we are going to look at oil from a slightly different angle. Oil is the main ingredient in vinaigrettes because it is used to balance the intense flavour of vinegar or other acids. The most popular oil is the olive one. For lighter, almost imperceptible vinaigrettes, we use neutral oils such as grape seed, sunflower and canola ones. For a more pronounced flavour of the vinaigrettes, use oils with a brighter, richer taste, for example, nut or sesame, but do not forget that such oils must be stored in the refrigerator. You can also balance a rich flavour of one oil by adding a more neutral oil in a 1:1 ratio.
Vinegar and other acids
They are used to create a pleasant refreshing contrast with oil. The most popular vinegar is balsamic, that is what will add interesting flavours to simple vegetable salads. Vinegars can be divided into mild and more bold, sharp. The mind ones include white grape and rice vinegars. Lemon juice is also conventionally referred to as mild. Sharp ones include white grape vinegar and apple cider vinegar.
How to prepare the vinaigrette
The standard ratio is 1:3 when 1 part of vinegar accounts for 3 parts of oil. To my mind, the easiest way is to shake the vinegar and oil in a glass jar, not forgetting to add salt and pepper.
It might be a great idea to mix a stronger oil with a sharper vinegar, or a more neutral oil with a mild vinegar so that one ingredient won’t dominate the other.
Do not forget that the rich color of the dressing may not have the most pleasant effect on the color of the salad ;)
How to add flavours
Use shallots, garlic, green onions, lemon zest, spices and seasonings to add flavour. Sweet syrups, honey and sugar will help you to add sweetness and balance the tartness.
In salads, dressings should emphasize the flavour of the vegetables, not overshadow them; use lighter and more neutral vinaigrettes for more delicate salad leaves, such as iceberg, and harsher vinaigrettes for richer ones, such as arugula.
By preparing homemade vinaigrettes you can control their flavour, richness and additional ingredients. As a bonus you will stop buying vinaigrettes which contain water, flavour enhancers and preservatives.