Catering, Food Artisans, Recipes

Cooking with Grace: How to Make a Vibrant Vinaigrette

Welcome to Cooking with Grace! This is where Grace Singleton, a managing partner at the Deli, shares her favorite products and delectable home cooking tips with us. This week, she tells us how to make an easy, vibrant vinaigrette. Want to learn more about vinegar? If you’re local, join us for our upcoming Vinegar 101 class at the Deli on 2/15 at 6:30pm. Find out more here.

Vinaigrettes are pretty simple to make. It just takes a few ingredients whisked together, and you have a tasty dressing that you can use on green salads, to dress roasted vegetables, or to drizzle over fresh mozzarellawhatever suits your mood.

It’s important to start with really good tasting olive oil and vinegar as those are the main components. You can then add whatever condiment or seasoning you have to the vinegar and whisk in the oil to make an emulsion. Mustard (especially dijon) is very good because it naturally helps the emulsion form, but I’ve had good luck using honey as well.

And, here’s a secret: it doesn’t really matter if your salad dressing forms an emulsion or not. If I am adding multiple ingredients to the oil and vinegar (things besides salt and pepper) then I will whisk the dressing in the bottom of the salad bowl or in a separate bowl and then toss the greens in the dressing.

If I am going for something simpler, I’ll just put the greens into my salad bowl and toss the lettuce leaves in just enough olive oil to coat them (you don’t want so much that you have a pool in the bottom of the bowl). I then add a little salt and pepper as it sticks nicely to the greens once the oil is on them. I finish with a few splashes of vinegar, taste the greens and add more oil if it’s too vinegary. You can also add more vinegar if you want a bit more acidity.

Here are two vinaigrette recipes from my home kitchen:

Mandarin Dijon Vinaigrette:
2 tbsp of your favorite vinegar (I’ve been using a wildflower vinegar that I am testing to see if we should sell it at the Deli in the future)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil (I use Katz December oil)
1 tsp of dijon mustard (I use Fallot Burgundy)
1 tsp honey
pinch of sea salt
couple grinds of pepper
juice from half a mandarin orange (set other half to the side, you’ll need it later)
chopped red onion (use as much or as little as you like)
fresh greens of your choice

1. Whisk everything except the olive oil, onions, greens, and half mandarin together in a bowl.
2. Add 3-4 tablespoons olive oil.
3. Place cleaned greens and chopped red onion in salad bowl
4. Toss greens and red onion with enough dressing to coat the leaves. Taste and add more salt, pepper, oil or vinegar to taste.
5. Remove the peel from the other half mandarin and cut up segments into 1/2″ size pieces and add as a garnish.

Note: unused dressing can be refrigerated and used again after whisking

Hudson Standard Concord Grape Vinaigrette:
1 tbsp of your favorite vinegar ( I used 16 year old Vecchia Balsamic Vinegar)
1 tbsp of Concord grape shrub (I use Hudson Standard)
2 tbsp whole grain mustard (I really love American Spoon)
pinch of sea salt
2-3 grinds of black pepper
3-4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil (I use Katz December oil)

1. Whisk all above except the olive oil together and slowly add 3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (Katz December oil)
2. Taste and add more of any of the ingredients you think it needs

I tossed fresh spinach in this vinaigrette, adding a little red onion as I did with the Mandarin Dijon Vinaigrette above. I tossed the greens with enough dressing to coat them. Taste the greens with the dressing, and add more salt, pepper, oil or vinegar if desired. It’s all about what tastes good to you!

A few words about greens:
Locally in Ann Arbor, there’s been some really great butter lettuce available at the Saturday Farmers Market in Kerrytown from Goetz Family Farm. I call it butter lettuce, but there may be a different name for it. It’s big leafy greens—tender but not delicate, and so full of flavor. The leaves are thick and give quite a crunch. I’m loving the fact that I can get locally grown lettuce that is packed with flavor. It almost makes me think that it isn’t January! There’s also lots of locally grown spinach available—I picked some up at Argus Farm Stand.

However, whichever greens you use, you should taste them to decide what kind of salad dressing you want to use. There’s quite a range of flavor in greens from soft sweet greens to spicy arugula. I usually try to put something sweeter on the spicy greens, and something lighter on the more delicate greens, so the flavor of the greens doesn’t get hidden by the other flavors.

Don’t forget our Balsamic Blowout Sale
While we’re on the subject of vinegar, I should mention that our annual Balsamic Blowout Sale is going on, so now’s the time to stock up on your favorite balsamic vinegars! It ends February 28.