You may find this fact hard to believe, but I’ve never purchased a bottled salad dressing or vinaigrette! I honestly don’t understand why anyone would. Don’t take this the wrong way if you happen to like them, but to me, they’re a real waste of money. And that’s besides the fact that you are also investing in chemicals and preservatives, in most cases. (In all honesty I sometimes have ranch dressing around, but I also make it from scratch.)
But for me, even without the financial aspect, what’s more important is making my own vinaigrettes depending on my mood, what kind of salad I want to make, and the season. I’ve actually taught vinaigrette making in classes before. They’re so easy to make, and they’re way healthier because you control the ingredients. There are an infinite number of creative ways to make vinaigrettes.
When I cooked for a family for so many years, I never made the same dressing twice. So trust me, there are potentially multitudes of vinaigrettes.
There are two basic components to a vinaigrette – the vinegar and the oil. Think about all of the vinegar choices these days! There’s apple cider, red wine, rice wine, white balsamic, and the list goes on. It’s also important to consider the color of the vinegar when you’re choosing one, as well as the flavor you want.
If you’re not too fond of vinegar, try using rice wine vinegar. It’s less strong than the others. And if you like a touch of sweetness, try white balsamic vinegar. It’s clear as well, so it mixes with anything. Balsamic vinegar is pretty powerful, so I usually don’t use it in vinaigrettes. I prefer it as is. Plus, the brown color can “ruin” a pretty salad if you’re not careful.
There are also fruit vinegars that can be purchased and used in vinaigrettes. I bought a raspberry one once and it was awful. And it even said “all natural” flavors on the label. A good reason to make your own fruit vinegars at home! (Which I never have but I know they’re very straight forward and easy!)
Then there are the oils – extra virgin olive oil, of course, but also hazelnut, avocado, walnut oil, and so forth. These don’t add huge amounts of flavors, but they’re all delicious. And it’s fun to mix and match them to the vinegars.
Garlic is a common ingredient in my vinaigrettes that I make at home. Mostly because I love garic. But if you’re making a very subtly flavored vinaigrette you might have to back off from the garlic. It can overpower. The same goes for ginger and shallots. But they both work in a vinaigrette as well.
Now we come to the fun stuff. Think about these additions – frozen orange juice, sun dried tomatoes, beet juice, reduced leftover champagne, herbs, apple cider, mango, roasted red bell peppers, pesto, harissa, chimichuri sauce, avocado, strawberries, and on and on. All of these “accessory” ingredients can be added to a basic vinaigrette to create a really unique flavor. I’ve only listed a few.
Today, because it’s autumn and the pears are ripe and delicious, I’m making a pear vinaigrette. I wanted to make a composed salad of butter lettuce, some cabbage and carrots, a few mushrooms and hearts of palm slices, lentils, and some grilled chicken. The pairing with the pear vinaigrette sounded perfect to me.
I chose to use apple cider vinegar and walnut oil, just for fun, along with a whole pear.
1 whole pear, cored
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 small garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnut oil
Place the pear, vinegar, garlic and salt in a blender jar.
Blend until smooth. You have to make sure that the garlic is blended. It will look like this:
Keep blending on low, and gradually pour all of the walnut oil into the pear-vinegar mixture. It will be nice and smooth like this:
Serve immediately, and store any excess in a jar in the refrigerator.
Although it may not last long because it’s fabulous!
Oh, this sounds wonderful, Mimi! I recently made a delicious salad which had a sliced pear as one of the ingredients, but I might just try with a pear vinaigrette instead some day! Never thought of doing anything like that, but it is a wonderful idea, and it does make the possibilities for vinaigrette almost endless!
they really are endless. but I still could have used sliced pear, as well as toasted walnuts in the salad. plain home-made vinaigrettes are fabulous as well!
I make my own vinaigrettes, but hadn’t thought of adding things like whole pears! These are such good ideas for experimenting– thanks for all the creative suggestions!
you bet! even a little blog of thawed frozen o.j. concentrate spiffs up a summer vinaigrette! It’s amazing what all can be used.
I agree, it’s so wonderful having a collection of different vinegars and oils from which to create a vinaigrette! Walnuts and apples.. what could be better for fall?
absolutely. and pears!
Sounds really good! I make most of our salad dressings too, though I cant honestly say that I have never bought one. This sounds like a nice light dressing.
And it’s only subtly sweet.
Amen to making your own vinaigrettes. Everyone should learn to make their own. It’s easy
What a great idea! We have a never-ending salad dressing going in a jar around here (whatever vinegar, olive oil, garlic, mustard, odds and ends of herbs, salt and pepper) that we top off as needed. I’d never thought to add fruit puree, but I think that may be next on my list!
Have you ever reduced beet syrup? Or, leftover champagne? those work really well too!!! And port, too, which I forgot to include…
Lovely recipe. I agree – why would anyone EVER buy a store bought vinaigrette????
I know! Right?
You are showing folks how simple – and AMAZINGLY tasty – a homemade dressing is. Nice job!
Now I’m inspired. Love the pear idea.
it adds just a touch of sweetness and flavor. nice and subtle.
I’ve never understood bought salad dressing either. But, there are so very many things at the grocery that I do not understand. Your pear vinaigrette sounds delicious.
I know what you mean!!!
I’m with you, never even consider buying salad dressing, so simple, so adaptable.
exactly! I don’t know about where you live, but here there are hundreds for sale.
Left over Champagne? Not where I’ve lived!
I’d be more surprised if you had bought a bottled vinaigrette. Like you I don’t understand why people do.
there are times when I open up too many bottles… then there’s left over champagne!
Wow, a pear vinegraitte. That sounds just right….thanks for sharing!
you are welcome!
This is a wonderful vinaigrette! I would never have thought of pear, but it sounds so good!
it’s great. and not sweet like you’d think!
I’ve never thought to add blended fruit to a dressing. (I always make my own dressings too for the same reasons as you do.) I bet this would be great on a salad with blue cheese and nuts…
Absolutely ! You could also add pears to the mix, because the fresh pear and pear dressing taste different.
I agree. Convenience is the only reason someone would buy salad dressing but that is only because they don’t realize how easy it is to make it at home. This sounds delicious!!!!!! I have some apples so this will be on the table tonight.
Another way to flavor a vinaigrette is with preserves or chutneys. I usually start with a basic vinaigrette (white vinegar, vegetable oil, salt and pepper) and add a few dollops of preserves (raspberry, strawberry, mango, orange marmalade, etc.) or chutney (mango, tamarind, mint, etc.). Fruit vinaigrette goes very well on blue cheese and/or nut embellished salads.
I think the preserves idea would be too sweet for me personally, but love the chutney idea! I think vinaigrettes are equally as important as the salad.