Most bottled vinaigrette salad dressings are good for one thing — marinating meat.
Which is why when it comes to dressing summer-fresh produce, you are much better off making your own. The flavors are bold and crisp, the sodium and fat usually are lower, and the process is cheap and easy.
The key to making a great viaigrette is understanding the basic balance between acids and fats needed for a tasty dressing. To some extent this is subjective, but a 1-to-3 ratio of acid to fat is a good starting point.
What you use for the acid and fat also is a matter of preference. Balsamic vinegar and olive oil are classic.
But any number of vinegars or citrus juices could be used for the acid, and numerous nut, seed and vegetable oils work well as the fat.
The combination you choose depends on two things — the additional flavors and ingredients you plan to add to the dressings and the ingredients you will use in the salad.
A salad that is heavy on cheese or meats, for example, does well when dressed with sharp flavors that cut through the fat. So a dressing with a mild-flavored oil and an assertive acid would work best.
Additional flavors added to the dressing itself affect not only taste, but also texture and viscosity. A creamy vinaigrette, for example, is easily made by adding yogurt (regular or fat-free) or mustard.
Even some produce can produce this effect. Pureeing roasted red pepper or sun-dried tomatoes into a dressing adds lush body without tons of calories. But if you’re looking for lots of flavor in a thinner dressing, try adding fresh herbs.
As for method, a shaker works but a blender is best. Especially when adding other ingredients to a basic vinaigrette, the pureeing action of a blender will give you the best results.
Start to finish: 5 minutes
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/3 cup fat-free Greek-style plain yogurt (regular fat-free plain yogurt can be substituted) 3 tablespoons all-fruit strawberry jam
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. If not serving immediately, leave the dressing in the blender until ready to serve, then pulse the once to stir and transfer to a serving container.