How I love a great vinaigrette. The melding of two distinctly unique partners, oil and vinegar, lends proof to the adage that opposites attract. The addition of herbs, sugar, salt, spices or citrus juice can transform this simple dressing into a culinary masterpiece - perfect for drizzling on fresh greens or marinating fish, pork and poultry.
Creating your vinaigrette masterpiece:
1. Oil is the soul of your dressing. Most vegetable oils make a fine vinaigrette. Canola, safflower, and soybean oils are light in flavor, while olive oil is deeper and more complex. Walnut, sesame and avocado oils are darker and more intense.
2. If oil is the soul, then vinegar is the heart of your vinaigrette. White wine vinegar is reliably mild and versatile. Sherry, raspberry and cider vinegar produces a full-flavored vinaigrette. The deep, sweet flavor of dark balsamic vinegar is sublime. My current addiction is white balsamic vinegar. A good quality white balsamic is pure heaven. I've consumed 3 bottles this summer alone.
3. Citrus juice makes a fabulous addition to your vinaigrette. Due to it's high acid content, it can easily replace part or all of the vinegar in your recipe. Lemon and lime juice will kick up the brightness, while orange juice will provide more sweetness.
4. Be sure to give your vinaigrette a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Even if you add no additional seasonings, salt and pepper are essential as they will enhance the flavor of your ingredients.
5. The choices of herbs and seasonings for your vinaigrette are endless. Fresh chopped basil, oregano, thyme, and parsley are great choices. Literally any herb you pull from the garden or tote home from the farmers market can be incorporated. Each herb will lend it unique flavor profile and pleasantly alter the character of your vinaigrette. When using dried herbs, use one-third as much as their flavor is highly concentrated. Garlic, mustard, and sugar are also welcome additions.
6. What is the perfect ration of oil to vinegar for a fabulous vinaigrette? Traditionally, a 3:1 ratio will produce a classic, smooth vinaigrette. A 2:1 ratio will yield a vinaigrette that is slightly thinner and more tart. Lately, I'm satisfied with a 1:1 ratio, especially in the summertime. The fat content is lower and the overall result light and refreshing.
7. Oil and vinegar do not really want to combine with one another. It's a classic love-hate relationship. Temporary emulsion is the term used to describe what occurs when you vigorously shake to combine oil and vinegar. An airtight jar with a tight lid is best for this job.
8. Homemade vinaigrette may be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks. Use it to dress your fresh greens, roasted vegetables, or to marinate meat, fish or poultry. Try sampling new oils, vinegars, and the limitless array of herbs and seasonings to create your own signature vinaigrette.
Maple-Blasamic Pork Tenderloin Salad
1/3 cup dark balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup olive oil
1 pkg. pork tenderloins (containing 2 loins)
8 cups mixed salad greens
2 lbs. fresh strawberries, sliced
4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a blender, combiner the vinegar and syrup. While processing, add the oil in a steady stream until combined. Set aside 1/3 cup of the dressing.
Place the pork in a large, resealable plastic bag. Add the remaining dressing to the bag and seal. Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Pan sear the pork in an oven proof skillet to brown all sides, 2-3 minutes. Transfer the skillet to oven to finish cooking, 8-10 minutes or until no longer pink in the center. Remove the pork to a cutting board and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, toss the greens and the strawberries with the remaining dressing. Place the greens on individual dinner plates. Slice the pork across the grain and place the slices atop the greens. Sprinkle each serving with blue cheese crumbles.
Makes 4-6 servings