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Favorite simple vinaigrette?

I know that there are a few old threads on this topic but I thought I'd start an updated version. I have a new obsession with spinach and grape tomatoes which has led to a nearly daily craving for spinach salads. In fact, this craving encouraged me to finally dive into homemade vinaigrette as I love love vinegar. I have experimented with Sherry, Balsamic, and Red Wine with other various mix-ins including salt, pepper, Italian herbs and roasted garlic. However, I'd love some simple other ideas. Any favorites?

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  1. Olive oil, balsamic, and a half-tsp of dijon mustard is our go-to, but what really makes it plate-lickable is a wee dash of roasted walnut oil. A little S&P is nice, but not even necessary if you have the dijon.

    I LOVE this store: http://www.beyondtheolive.com - it's local for us, so wandering around tasting oils and vinegars can take up an afternoon, but they're champagne vinegar, fig balsamic, and blackberry balsamic are so good that we've dressed salads with just the syrupy vinegar and no oil at all. We even tell my two-year old it's syrup, pour it on a little too thick, and he'll eat salad like a rabbit. =)

    12 Replies
    1. re: thursday

      Oh yes I forgot the requisite teaspoon of Grey Poupon which I pop in. I will give the walnut oil a try. Is there anything n particular I should look for if I bought at a regular store? I think I've spotted a few varieties at Whole Foods and Wegman's. What does it taste like?

      1. re: fldhkybnva

        I used to only be able to get it at specialty stores, but I've now seen it everywhere, including Whole Foods, Ralph's, maybe even Trader Joe's and Costco... It tastes just like toasted walnuts by itself, but when you add it to the dressing it lends an undefinable sweetness and nuttiness that is really just lovely.

        Another similar favorite: rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil for a more Asian version, though I haven't found the main oil I like in it as well (we usually use olive or peanut) and it needs an Asian mustard...haven't perfected it yet, but it's in the rotation when I want to use soy, etc. on my main.

        1. re: thursday

          I really like the Kadoya sesame oil so perhaps you might give that a try and I love the combination of sesame oil, rice vinegar and ginger so perhaps that will enter the rotation this weekend. Though, I'm not sure it would pair well with my favorite blue cheese.

        2. re: fldhkybnva

          It tastes like walnut. But only if you get toasted. I've bought the "extra virgin" walnut oil once, and it tasted like nothing.

        3. re: thursday

          I picked up walnut oil today. So you use primarily olive oil with just a bit of walnut oil, is it too powerful to just use walnut?

            1. re: sunshine842

              +1 to sunshine: it's lovely just on its own, but just too expensive.

            2. re: fldhkybnva

              You can just use walnut oil. I like it in combination with sherry vinegar.

              1. re: linguafood

                This is what I just did - sort of. Walnut oil with sherry and champagne vinegar. Overall it was much milder than my usual combination of olive oil and Balsamic vinegar

            3. re: thursday

              OK, now I thank you for this recommendation. I tried the walnut oil before and wasn't too wowed and then realized I bought refined and realized that's probably why. I love salads and needed some new ideas so spent the extra on another bottle of toasted walnut oil and....wow, this stuff is good!!!

              1. re: fldhkybnva

                And many other Toasted Nut oils to be tried as well. Hazelnut, Pistachio, Almond... Pumpkin Seed Oil is also Delicious

                1. re: chefj

                  Thanks, I'll definitely be making my way down the aisle.

            4. Good topic! I am playing with jam.....

              I love the simple daily balsamic vinaigrette, but lately I have been mixing in a shy teaspoon of jam (raspberry or orange marmalade is nice) for a change. Goes really well with some nuts in the salad and some soft cheese. Sugar free jam is perfect for this.

              Experimenting with the jam concept is fun with Asian inspired vinaigrette a too. I make alot of daily, simple Viet and Thai foods so I make salads that are some kind of riff on generic Asian flavors. Like rice vinegar and oil, ginger and orange marmalade,etc.

              1. I'm always partial to lemon vinaigrette. EVOO, lemon, dijon (I like Maille), s/p. I like a 2:2 ratio for oil to acid...or a little heavier on the acid side.

                I use this basic recipe for any kind of vinaigrette just switching up the acid. I think a teaspoon or so of honey rounds out the acidity, but not necessary. Sometimes I'll add herbs, I prefer dry herbs for vinaigrette.

                This is a great honey mustard vinaigrette recipe I found on tammyrecipes.com

                Ingredients:
                1/2 cup olive oil or flax seed oil
                3 tablespoons vinegar
                2 tablespoons water
                1/4 cup honey
                1/4 cup prepared mustard (Dijon or other*)
                1/2 teaspoon dried basil
                1 teaspoon salt
                dash of black pepper

                I always have a jar of homemade vinaigrette in my fridge. Enjoy your spinach salads!

                2 Replies
                1. re: pagesinthesun

                  I am also an acid fan and if no one else is around will usually do 1:1 or even 2:1 acid:oil which probably means it's not emulsifying very well but works for me and I get my dose of acetic acid.

                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                    haha, I just realized I said 2:2, which would be 1:1 to most people!

                2. For spinach salad, my favorite dressing is bacon vinaigrette made with bacon grease, apple cider vinegar, a bit of brown sugar and a touch of Dijon mustard to help the emulsion come together.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: JungMann

                    ^^^What he said.

                    I also thought the vinaigrette from Feb's cookbook of the month was good, it was very simple, dijon mustard, 1 shallot minced, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, olive oil.

                    1. re: JungMann

                      Aha!!! Of course, why didn't I think of my beloved jar of bacon grease? It sounds divine and would pair well with the lovely Point Reyes Blue Cheese I picked up tonight.

                    2. With a tree full of Meyer lemons, I like to add a little of the juice to a dressing along with balsamic. But what really gives it that great flavor is a good grating of the zest--everybody loves it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: escondido123

                        Lucky!

                        We have wonderful citrus this time of year in AZ, but not Meyer lemons.

                        As a matter of fact, I'm serving salty dogs this afternoon with our beautiful red grapefruits! ;-)

                      2. Olive oil and white balsamic. Sometimes with torn basil or chopped dill.

                        1. A shallot or garlic clove adds a nice zip. If you let it marinate in the acid for a while, it takes the bite away. I lean toward a sharper dressing heavier on the vinegar or lemon side. You could also mix in a little orange juice.

                          I tend to make something different each time - the other night I made a dressing with a tiny bit of soy and rice vinegar with whole grain mustard. I added bit of yogurt for a creamy dressing. It sounds weird, but it was tasty.

                          1. Didn't you get a whole list of Vinaigrette ideas in your last post about them?
                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/887915

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: chefj

                              Yes, although that thread had a more specific title so I thought this might generate more ideas. Sorry.

                            2. I like to soak minced shallots in some white balsamic vinegar for 10-15 minutes, then whisk olive oil into that. Salt and pepper to taste. It's super simple and clean-tasting.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: nomnomnoms

                                How would you compare white balsamic to regular?

                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                  it's got a savory element to it, and not very sweet like aged balsamic. i like it much more than regular balsamic.

                              2. Balsamic, Truffle oil, and a couple of diced shallots. Pretty basic.

                                1. Pomegranite molasses! Use that with a neutral tasting oil, cider vinegar and a bit of brown mustard

                                  1. 3 Vinegar Fusion Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

                                    2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
                                    2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
                                    4 Tbsp Seasoned Rice Vinegar (I use Marukan Seasoned Gourmet Rice Vinegar brand)
                                    4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
                                    Salt & black pepper to taste

                                    Place vinegars in a small bowl and whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil.
                                    Pour dressing over green salad and toss to coat evenly. Season with Salt & black pepper to taste.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: Antilope

                                      That's a 2:1 ratio vinegars:oil.... is it very acidic? I generally do the 2:1 or 3:1 ratio oil:vinegar.

                                      1. re: linguafood

                                        I do a 3:1 usually though I love vinegar. The oil for me serves to distribute and ensure stickage to the greens.

                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                          And to make many of the vitamins and minerals in the salad available to your body, as many of them are only soluble in fat. A salad without fat is useless (let alone tasteless) - might as well eat wet tissues.

                                          1. re: linguafood

                                            I enjoy it so I guess it's not technically useless or tasteless. I also load up my salads with meat so perhaps that matters but who knows, we like what we like. Also, not sure I need to get all my fat soluble vitamins from salad, I do eat other foods.

                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                              I wasn't implying that you, personally, only subsist on salads.

                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                Haha, I know, my snarky gene sneaked out. I hope I soak up some vitamins tonight in the fat of a lovely roasted leg of lamb. Since you seem to be an oil fan, any favorites other than olive?

                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                  Walnut is my favorite for dressings, probably, though it always depends on what kind of salad I'm making.

                                                  I like a lemon oil (which really is just artificially flavored olive oil) with baby arugula, lots of ground black pepper and fresh grated parmesan. Maybe a sploosh of lemon, but not much.

                                                  (Toasted) peanut oil is nice for yam nuah, with a little fish sauce & lime & chopped bird chilis.

                                                  I've tried avocado oil, but it didn't really float my boat, given the expense.

                                                  I'd say my favorites are nut oils and good olive oils.

                                    2. My two favorites depend on home made wine vinegars which I find much more flavorful than store bought.

                                      White with peanut oil and a little Maille Dijon, about 3:1. Also a sprinkling of grey salt.

                                      Red with EVOO and a little Maille Dijon. 3.5 or 4:1.

                                      For both I used a tall narrow jar that originally held bacon bits, just the right size and shape.

                                      1. From A Dinner A Day cookbook, I like this Tarragon/Mint combination

                                        1 jar (6.5 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, reserve the marinade
                                        2 T. white wine vinegar
                                        1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
                                        1/4 tsp. dried mint
                                        Salt & Pepper / other seasoning to taste

                                        Whisk together the reserved artichoke oil, the vinegar, the tarragon, and the mint. Season to taste and toss with the salad.

                                        1. I have three simple favorites: 3/1 EVOO and red wine vinegar I with a little Maille Dijon for most tossed salads, 3/1 peanut oil and white wine vinegar and a little Maille Dijon on avocado and tomato wedges with thinly sliced sweet onion and grey salt, and 3/1 walnut oil and raspberry vinegar on Bibb lettuce.