VINAIGRETTE: Because a Well-Dressed Salad is a Beautiful Thing!

A basic salad dressing is so easy to make and costs so much less than store-bought versions. You get the added benefit of knowing what went into it.

This is less a recipe and more a technique. I really don’t have a set in stone recipe for my salad dressings. My base ingredients are a good olive oil, red wine vinegar, mustard, garlic and herbs. I play with proportions, but I would say I use generally 2-3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. I do the rest by taste…

It takes four men to dress a salad: a wise man for the salt, a madman for the pepper, a miser for the vinegar, and a spendthrift for the oil.


There are many ways you can alter the dressing to pair it with your food. You keep it as simple as oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. I usually begin with a good olive oil. You can use other oils as well. Walnut oil, avocado oil, and sunflower oils are a few examples. I like walnut oil when I am making a beet salad.

The vinegar adds its own flavor profile: you can use a basic red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar or even a champagne vinegar. Balsamic adds a touch of sweetness. I have a Cherry Balsamic that I recently bought and plan to use with a mixture of walnut and perhaps olive oils. Lemon juice, while not a vinegar, is another acidic option and can be used in place of (or in addition to) the vinegar.


I found this Walnut mustard in recent trip to an Italian market (which is odd since the mustard is from France!!) It gives depth to walnut-vinaigrettes. Tasty!
I found this Walnut mustard in recent trip to an Italian market (which is odd since the mustard is from France!!) It gives depth to walnut-vinaigrettes. Tasty!


Mustard can be added to thicken the dressing and emulsify the ingredients so they don’t separate. Using different flavors of mustard also help the dressing take on its own personality.

Salt and pepper are other basics. You don’t have to add pepper, but usually salt is necessary. Here you can add a basic sea salt or kosher salt, or you can go with any number of flavored specialty salts in the market these days. You can check out my recent post on this subject.


I love to add herbs and other seasonings to my dressings. I finely mince anything to be added to extract as much flavor as possible. Some of my favorites are:

  • thyme
  • rosemary
  • parsley
  • oregano
  • tarragon
  • garlic
  • shallot
  • onion
  • capers
  • anchovy

“Pierre mixed the salad. The romaine and cress he doused with walnut oil chilled to an emulsion, turning it with wooden forks so that the bruises showed on the green in dark lines. He poured on the souring of wine vinegar and the juice of young grapes, seasoned with shallots, pepper and salt, a squeeze of anchovy, and a pinch of mustard. At the Faison d’Or the salad was in wedlock with the roast.” ~Idwal Jones, High Bonnet: A Novel of Epicurean Adventures

FINAL TIP: Don’t throw out those mainly empty mustard jars. You know the ones, they have bits of that yellowy goodness sticking to the side of the container…not enough to use on your next sandwich, but it sure seems a waste to throw it out.

Next time you make your salad dressing, add the ingredients to the jar and shake it all together to mix. It uses up the last of it so you don’t waste anything, and it at the same time adds flavor to your salad.



Please share with your friends, thank you!

3 thoughts on “VINAIGRETTE: Because a Well-Dressed Salad is a Beautiful Thing!

  1. I never would have thought of keeping old mustard bottles. My husband, who is the family cook, makes our own (Weight Watchers friendly) dressings, and mustard is zero points. Thank you for your tips.

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