Mastering homemade vinaigrettes

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Just as a painter is struck by color, a singer by melody, or a journalist by story, a chef is inspired by sensation.

Art in all expressions, appeals to the senses.  Creativity undeniably provokes a sensational mind-body experience. Cooking however, is the one form of artistic expression that promotes the arousal of all five senses harmoniously.  The sound alerts and attracts.  The smell arouses.  The sight excites anticipatory satisfaction.  The taste intices the sweet, satisfies the salty and indulges the umami.

Indubitably, the success of a chef is dependent upon participation.   A clean plate and happy belly merit a chef’s success.  Their passion to create is driven by our inherent necessity to eat.

For those of us who aren’t dreaming in croquettes and beurre blanc’s, there’s hope indeed!  Everyone possesses the ability to cook well.  As my extraordinary personal chef (and mom) taught me, it’s a matter of understanding basic principles and putting them into practice.

You see, the key to successful cooking is not about following recipes and mastering a select few.  It’s about understanding principles and trusting your intuition.

What do I mean by principles?

Principles boil down to an understanding of basic construction. Let me explain by example…

Principle: Vinaigrettes

Vinaigrettes are traditionally a 3:1 ratio (some prefer 2:1)
3 part oil, to one part acid
Salt and pepper to taste

Oils
Olive
Avocado
Hempseed
Coconut
Walnut
Flaxseed

Acid
Lemon juice
Lime juice
Apple cider vinegar
White vinegar
Rice wine vinegar
Red wine vinegar
Balsamic vinegar

Emulsifiers
Mustard
Egg yolks (or whole egg)
Garlic (roasted or fresh)
Miso

Invigorators
Cayenne
Sage
Capers
Olives
Shallots
Fresh ginger
Tarragon
Thyme
Mint
Basil
Chives
Cilantro
Dill
Parsley
Citrus zest

Sweeteners
Honey
Agave
Maple syrup
Molasses
Sugar

Now it’s time to play!  Experiment with your ratio’s, and your ingredients. Once you’re comfortable with the basics, try adding emulsifiers, invigorators and/or sweeteners.  The variations are endless!

Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 3 TBL organic extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 TBL aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard (I prefer the brand Mailie)
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Himalayan sea salt (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp organic maple syrup (optional)

Here’s How

  1. Whisk together oil, vinegar and mustard.
  2. Add salt and pepper to taste (I don’t salt this recipe due to the salty flavor of the mustard).
  3. Option to sweeten slightly with maple syrup.

Classic Oil + Vinegar

Ingredients

  • 3 TBL extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBL red wine vinegar
  • 1 TBL fresh lemon squeeze
  • Pinch dried or fresh thyme (optional)
  • Himalayan sea salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

Here’s How

  1. Whisk together oil, vinegar and mustard and lemon.
  2. Add thyme.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.

Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 2 TBL extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBL champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 lemon squeeze
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground vanilla bean
  • Pinch Himalayan sea salt

Here’s How

  1. Whisk together oil, vinegar, lemon, maple syrup and vanilla bean.
  2. Season with sea salt to taste.

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