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Earlier this week I gave you a recipe for Mandarin Orange Salad. The dressing was a simple vinaigrette and paired well with the ingredients of that salad. But vinaigrettes are a whole issue unto themselves. Let’s see if I can help you make some sense of it.

A basic vinaigrette is a temporary emulsion of oil and vinegar seasoned with salt and pepper. That said, you are already aware of the vast differences between one vinaigrette and another. The basic ratio of oil to vinegar is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. This ratio can vary, however, especially when using strong flavored oils. In some recipes all or part of the vinegar is replaced with citrus juice, in which case it may take more than one part vinegar (juice) to properly balance the flavor. The best way to test for flavor is to taste it, and preferably on the greens.

Oils and vinegars have unique flavors and can be mixed and matched to achieve the correct balance for a particular salad. Olive oil goes well with red wine vinegar, nut oils got well with balsamic or sherry vinegars. Neutral oils such as canola, corn or safflower can be paired with flavored vinegar.

There is a confusingly large variety of vinegars to choose from. Red wine vinegar is probably the most widely used as it is inexpensive and blends well with a wide variety of foods. Coming in behind that would be cider vinegar, balsamic, and the other wine vinegars such as white and rice. Fruit and herb flavored vinegars like raspberry, garlic or tarragon are popular and will make great vinaigrette.

You can infuse flavors into your own vinegar. Add fruit, garlic or fresh herbs to a wine vinegar, red or white, and let it do its own magic for several days. Strain the liquid and you are ready to make dressing.

Herbs, spices, shallots, garlic, mustard (many kinds) and sugar or honey are a few of the vast array of flavoring ingredients used to enhance your dressing. If dried herbs are used the dressing should rest for at least 1 hour to allow the flavor to come to life.

Here are a couple of recipes to get you started. Feel free to be creative when making your own dressing.

Raspberry Vinaigrette

Red wine vinegar 1oz (2 Tbl) Rice wine vinegar 1ozLemon juice 1 tspDried thyme ½ tspSalt 1/2 tspBlack pepper ½ tspGarlic 1 clove, crushedHoney 2 tsp (or Agave nectar)

Raspberry preserves 1 oz (seedless)Extra virgin Olive Oil 1 ½ ozVegetable oil 1 ½ oz

Whisk together all ingredients except the oils. When well blended slowly add the oils while whisking vigorously, emulsifying the dressing. Serve immediately.

Another method to blend all of these ingredients would be to place them ALL in a mason jar, shake it up real good and serve immediately. This way you can leave it in the sealed jar to store in the refrigerator.

Lemon Vinaigrette

Dijon mustard 1/2 tspRed wine vinegar 1 TblFresh lemon juice 2 TblCayenne pepper pinchSalt and black pepper to tasteExtra virgin olive oil ¼ cup

Mix as in the recipe above. Remember some lemons have more flavor than others, so feel free to taste and add more lemon juice if necessary.

Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

Blue cheese crumbles 2 ozGarlic 1 clove, crushedWhite wine vinegar 2 TblOlive oil 1/3 cupSalt and pepper to tasteOptional, 1 clove garlic, crushed

Mix as above.

I hope you enjoy these dressings and that these articles motivate you to whip up some wonderful salads for yourself and your family.

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