Food educator and cookbook author George Geary offers a few tricks of the trade for making vinaigrettes:
If making your own flavoured oils and vinegars by infusing them, use a base of white wine vinegar and canola oil because neither has a “dominant flavour profile.”
To make raspberry vinegar, for example, at least half fill a 250-millilitre (one-cup) jar or bottle with raspberries, cover the fruit with white wine vinegar, seal and let it sit in the fridge for about two weeks, making sure the fruit stays well submerged. When the infusion is complete, strain the flavouring out of the vinegar.
Make nut-flavoured or herb-flavoured oils the same way, using shelled nuts such as unsalted pistachios or walnuts or fresh herbs of choice. This can be done at room temperature.
Boiling the oil or vinegar together with the flavouring is another way to infuse but doesn’t have the same “natural” taste.
Most vinaigrettes will keep in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for seven to 14 days, but Geary generally makes his vinaigrettes the day he wants to use them or the day before.
When making a vinaigrette, take about 45 seconds to incorporate the oil (as you whisk) to ensure it’s emulsified with the other ingredients. If you pour too fast, it will float on top. If not using right away, whisk again before dressing the salad. If it’s in a jar, shaking is also an option.
For a salad of soft greens, the dressing and salad should not be combined until just before serving. Put a small amount of dressing in the bowl first, put the salad on top, then toss it. If a little more dressing is required, pour it down the side of the bowl and toss again. Do not pour the dressing directly on the greens.
Pasta salads can be dressed about two hours before serving to allow the flavours to meld. To avoid over-dressing, cut the called-for amount of dressing by at least one-third. The pasta and vegetables should be coated with dressing but not swimming in it. Taste before serving and if a little more dressing is required, add it then.
© 2015 The Canadian Press