I am going to start writing a weekly piece about foods that people commonly buy pre-made, but are deceptively simple to make from scratch at home. There is an illusion of quick and easy convenience about some foods–salad dressings, pasta sauces, deli meat–but many of these items come loaded with sugar, flavorings, weird stabilizing agents, chemicals and unpronounceable non-foods. Top on my hit list of “things I would like to eliminate from the American kitchen” is bottled salad dressing. Have you read the ingredient labels on any of those lately? The best of them are just filled with high fructose corn syrup and weird gums. The worst of them are just truly frightening–I actually have no idea what the hell they are made of, but I can tell you that it is not food and should not be glopped all over perfectly innocent salads. I imagine that sweet little lettuce down there, looking up at the bottle of reduced-fat-ranch-whatever and silently screaming, “noooooooo”. Really, if you were a sweet little lettuce leaf, would you rather be bathed in synthetic, gummy goo or luscious, sexy extra virgin olive oil? If I were king of the kitchens for a day, I would require everyone to throw away all the crappy salad dressings immediately. Really, look at the label. I speak the truth.
The simple solution is to make a basic vinaigrette once a week and keep it in your fridge. This takes 15 minutes to make, max, and the pay-off is that you have a tasty dressing made of honest, real ingredients ready to be used at any moment. If it coagulates in the refrigerator a bit (this happens in the absence of weird stabilizers gums and so forth), just let it come to room temperature for 10 minutes or so and whisk it together with a fork. This vinaigrette is delicious on salads, but also on grilled vegetables, fish or chicken. Want to change it up? Add a teaspoon of mustard or a clove of crushed garlic. Throw in some chopped fresh herbs. Throw in some dried herbs. Make it with lemon or lime juice instead of vinegar. Try a new kind of vinegar. Try a nut oil (walnut or hazelnut are good) instead of olive oil. Don’t have a shallot? Use a red onion. Don’t have a red onion? Use garlic. This is a super versatile, simple recipe that should replace every bottle of sugar filled glop in every fridge–if I were king for a day.
|How To Make A Simple Vinaigrette||
- 1 medium shallot, chopped fine
- 1/4 cup vinegar (red wine, sherry, apple cider, anything but not “white distilled”-that is for cleaning, not eating)
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground pepper
- Mix together the shallot, salt and vinegar.
- Let them macerate (fancy french word for “sit together in the bowl so that the shallot gets soft and loses its raw onion flavor”) for 10 minutes.
- Whisk in the olive oil.
- Add pepper.
- Taste and adjust seasoning or vinegar, if needed.