Treat Your Salad Right – How to Make a Basic Vinaigrette

Thai outdoor markets offer an astounding bounty: beautiful mangosteens, pineapples, mangos, guavas and papayas. All kinds of Thai classic cooked dishes as well. Raw meats and seafoods, veggies, including a wondrous assortment of leafy candidates for a morning green juice.

There is also usually a lady offering salads in a bag.

I remember when I first moved here. While looking for more permanent digs, my family was staying in an apart-hotel kind of place, and eating loads of Thai food off the street and in simple restaurants. After a week or so, I was thrilled to discover, in a nearby night market, my first of one of these salad-in-a-bag ladies.  At the time, it was like a miracle. Inside the clear plastic bags were lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and sometimes corn or a slice or two of green bell pepper. These were such a sight for sore eyes. Exactly what I loved to eat daily at home.

I bought one.

Any discovered something amiss. Instead of what I wanted, a nice sprightly vinaigrette to dress these salads, what I found instead was a little baggie of sweetened mayo (it’s a thing here). Hmmm.

Clearly a trip to the closest Western grocery store was in order.

In those early days, that meant a 1/2 day excursion, but after scouring the closest Western grocery store, I managed to located some olive oil, wine vinegar and Dijon mustard.  These became my survival condiments for the next few weeks.  I then proceeded to pick up salads in bags whenever I needed my “Western” salad fix – which was fairly often.

A basic vinaigrette is ridiculously easy to make, and it tastes way better than most bottled dressings.  I’m confident it is also a better health choice than jarred sugared mayo decanted into a little plastic baggie.

When you go to the trouble of putting together a green salad (or even just purchasing one in a bag), why not go all in and spend the 2 minutes necessary to also make your own dressing? You can modify the basic version any way you want by adding things on hand and of interest, like fresh or dried herbs or a smashed anchovy.  You could swap out the garlic for minced shallots, if that is what turns you on (or needs to be used up).  A basic vinaigrette is endlessly versatile.

On top of that, you get the comfort of knowing exactly what is in your food, since you made it yourself.

Go forth and conquer that salad bowl, or bag, as the case may be!

BASIC VINAIGRETTE DRESSING  (enough for 4-6 servings of salad)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 big clove garlic, peeled and chopped into pieces
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons white or red vinegar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons good quality olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Place the chopped garlic on a wooden cutting board (or in a big wooden salad bowl) and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  With a fork smoosh the garlic and salt together to form a paste.  Scrape the paste into your salad bowl.  Add vinegar.  Stir to mix with the fork. Slowly pour in the olive oil with one hand while continually stirring the mixture with the fork to form an emulsion.  Add pepper to taste.  If needed add more salt.  Adapt and modify as you wish.

The dressing is now ready for the salad greens and other items to be placed inside it and tossed.

If you have more dressing than you think you will need.  Pour some into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and store in the fridge, where it will keep for a couple of weeks or more.

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