I have asked myself why do I like restaurant salads better than the salads I make at home?  Well, most of the time I use crappy bottled salad dressing. That is the difference. Restaurants, that are quality, use in-house dressings, meaning they make them daily. And I can tell.  There is nothing worse than ordering a wedge salad and having bottled blue cheese or bottled ranch dressing poured over it.  YICK! 

I have done several posts of dressings in the past, but the most versatile and basic is the vinaigrette.  Mastering the art of making a vinaigrette is really not hard.  I remember back in the 80’s when you could buy the packet of dressing mix and the bottle and make your very own homemade Italian dressing. It was awesome!! I think you can still buy it in some stores and it is not as fabulous now, but it is still better than the bottled stuff.  At least when you make it yourself you can control the amount of vinegar and oil.  
The basic vinaigrette recipe is a mixture of acid (vinegar, lemon juice), oil (vegetable, olive, grape seed) and flavorings (dijon mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, garlic…).  Once you have mastered the ratio of oil to acid you prefer you can play with the flavorings.  I like my vinaigrettes very tangy and I tend to add more acid so I do not do the typical ratio of oil to vinegar which is 1 part acid to 3 parts oil, but hell its your dressing and you can make it however you like. 
Since it is spring and the herbs are blooming I like to use whatever herbs I have on hand (dill, tarragon, thyme, basil). And, if I am making this in advance I add Dijon mustard to the mixture to help emulsify the ingredients.  It does change the flavor of the vinaigrette, but I like it. 
Use this vinaigrette over lettuce of course, but you can also use it to marinate chicken or shrimp-just be carful not to marinate shrimp or fish too long or the acid will begin to “cook” the fish and make ceviche. That’s another post!!
A side note about making your own dressings is to use the best ingredients you can find or afford. Since this will not be cooked the flavor of the oil and mustard you use will be much stronger.  Buy the best you can.  It will make a difference!


French Vinagrette

Makes about 1/2 cup

1/2 shallot, minced finely (about 2 Tablespoons)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4-5 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh herbs, minced (dill, tarragon, basil, thyme..)

In a lidded jar mix all ingredients together and shake well. 

* This only lasts about 2 days in the refrigerator so make what you will use
* If you are going to make this earlier in the day for dinner then wait to add the herbs until the last minute so they do not loose their color or flavor.  
* Use the very best olive oil you can afford.  Since this will not be cooked you want the best flavor oil.