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This week’s blog is about basic vinaigrette. I think I’ve pronounced that correctly. You know what, I do a radio segment and I tend to pronounce things not necessarily the way the French do or whoever does and I often get picked up, people will email me and say, “You didn’t pronounce that correctly.” My answer usually is “You’ve got too much time on your hands to tell me that.” No, in reality. Vinaigrette I think it is.

So I make this in quantities, usually a litre or so at a time. The reason I do that is because I have a very fundamental recipe that can be adopted for literally anything you want to use it for. Now I use my vinaigrette for both marinating and also as a dressing on my salads. What I do is I add the fundamental basic ingredient from my perspective that is, lemon juice as opposed to any other acid and that’s because it’s got much more neutral flavour in terms of mixing it with other things. If I use a lemon juice, it means I can add vinegar to it.

So if I wanted to make a dressing for example for a Salad Nicoise where I would add a red wine vinegar, if I’ve got a white wine vinegar in there or a white vinegar in there, they tend to overpower and counteract each other. But if I’ve got lemon juice in there that actually works really really well. So lemon juice is the key as far as I’m concerned. Salt and pepper and I tend to use a really good flaked salt and we’ve got a beautiful salt here in Australia called Murray River pink salt and I use that because it just dissolves beautifully in the lemon juice. Some really good quality cracked pepper and a little bit of garlic.

Now with the garlic, it’s important to use a very finely minced or better still if you can buy it in a tube, I know we like to use everything fresh but the tube stuff is actually quite amazing. Because it’s been almost pureed, it mixes in with the dressing perfectly. So I do tend to use it when I make my dressing. So I mix those three ingredients first, salt, pepper, garlic and my lemon juice into a container good, good shake and do it until the sugar, until the sugar but you can put sugar if you like I guess, the salt until the salt completely dissolves. You won’t be able to dissolve the pepper obviously. The amount of salt and pepper you put in will depend on taste.

Now I’m not going to tell you how much to do it because I’m a bit of a salt fiend so I actually add quite a lot to my dressing and it makes it really beautiful. But we also do a bit of a tasting as we get to the other end. So wait till we get to there.

Once I’ve done that, the next step is to add my oil. Now again, I will often use rice bran oil as opposed to an olive oil when I’m making a dressing. It depends on what I’m going to be using that dressing for. Sometimes I’ll have two lots of dressing in the fridge. One with olive oil and one with rice bran oil. If I’m going to be adding a lot of other flavours to the dressing for other salads or other things, I’ll use the rice bran oil because it doesn’t have much flavour at all. So therefore, anything I add to that dressing is actually going to, not be overpowered by the olive oil flavour.

But if I’m going to be using a dressing just to dress the salad on a continual basis which I do pretty much every single day, then I will use a really good quality olive oil. You want to use a cold pressed olive oil, one that you wouldn’t use if you’re going to do any cooking because it’s going to be purer, it’s going to have a bit of flavour and its actually going to be better for you as well.

So I then add my oil and the quantity is one amount by three. So if I’ve got 200mls for example of lemon juice, then I will make it up to 800mis of olive oil. Now as I get towards the end of that 800mls, I start to do a bit of taste test. Because sometimes amazingly enough you know that is the quantity, you might get lemons that are more flavourful than other times. Or you might use an olive oil which is a little bit more flavourful than one you’ve used before if you don’t use the same one all the time.

So it’s really important that you taste as you go. So I will add probably three quarters of that oil, then I’ll shake it and then I’ll do a taste test. You can tell straight away whether it needs more oil or more lemon juice. So always have both on hand. I just keep adding until I get it to just the right consistency and the right flavour mix. Then at this point, chances are it’s probably going to need a little bit more salt as well from my perspective, not necessarily from your perspective.

So this is when I would add little bits of salt, shake, taste, a little bit of salt, shake, taste. I’ll keep doing that until that oil or until that dressing rather is absolutely perfect from my perspective. It’s going to need to be perfect for both no matter what I’m going to be using it for. If I’m going to use it to flavour with some other ingredients for example I might add as I said earlier, for a salad Nicoise I might add some red wine vinegar to it or I might make a pear and walnut salad, in which case add blue cheese, I might melt some blue cheese and I might add that to a little bit of dressing and shake that up. Or I might add some Thai flavours like some lemon grass or soy sauce or fish sauce to it and make it into a Thai dressing for Thai beef salad.

So the beauty of this very basic vinaigrette is that you can vary it for any type of salad that you want. If you make it up in bulk and have it in the fridge, then you’ll always have it on hand at any time to make a very quick salad. Now it will if you’re using a really good quality oil not so much rice bran, but certainly an olive oil, it will go solid in the fridge. It will harden up. That is perfectly normal. In fact if it doesn’t go solid, I would suspect that your oil is not a very good quality one because really good quality cold pressed olive oils will solidify at cold temperatures, so in the fridge.

So what you want to do with that is take it out of the fridge and I have mine in just little squeezy bottle. I just take that out while I’m making my salad, while I’m preparing and putting it together. By the time I’m finished, it has come back to room temperature, it has gone to liquid form, I can give a good shake and I can just literally drizzle it straight over the salad.

Because it’s a squeezy bottle with a little nozzle on the top of it, very very easy to do. They are about $2 from kitchen shops most certainly here in Australia anyway. You might pick them up from the Kmart or Target and places like that. They are not very expensive and I’ve got several of them. One with a coulis in it, another one with a sugar syrup in it, another one with a dressing in it and they are all just sitting there in the fridge ready to use so I can whip up desserts, whip up salads, all of these things without having to go to too much trouble to prepare that sort of thing. Oh and a chocolate sauce, I’ve always got chocolate sauce in the fridge as well.

So there are my hints and tips for making vinaigrette and if you do that and you have it on hand, you will be able to create just about any type of vinaigrette that you want from that one basic recipe. Also it’s fantastic as a marinade. It doesn’t matter what you’re marinating, any type of meat, you can use that same basic construction for any marinade and again add your other ingredients to it so that will permeate. So Thai ingredients or whatever else you want, fresh herbs you can put into there, all sorts of things. They will work very very well.

Then that sauce that is the marinade, afterwards if you want to use that as a dressing over, whatever it is that you’ve marinated, so let’s say it’s nice piece of steak, just make sure that you pop that in the cook top, on the stove and heat it for a few minutes first so you kill off any of the bacteria that might be there from the meat that you actually marinated it in. Then you can use it as a drizzle sauce afterwards as well.
Some great little hints and tips there for vinaigrette. I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog. I’m Victoria and I look forward to seeing you again soon. Bye for now.

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