Following is an explanation into the culinary technique used for making vinaigrettes and dressings.
First off here is a list of the essential tools you will need to make salad dressings / vinaigrette’s.
Microplane (for fine zesting)
When making salad dressing you are focusing on 2 things
-Creating Balanced Flavor
-Creating an Emulsification
Balance of Acidity and Oil
The classic ratio of acidity to oil is 1:3, one part acid to three parts oil.
The 1 to 3 ratio is a good general guideline, however the level of acidity depends on your pallet and the type of acid used. You may prefer to a 1 to 1 ratio if you are using a mild acidity and don’t want a strong emulsified vinaigrette
Example: Lime Juice. To increase the acidity of lime juice, use the zest instead of more juice. Using zest is always a good idea when working with citrus to get more of its’ flavor. The ratio of zest to juice is up to you. Experiment and let your inner chef and pallet guide you towards your own ratio. Also this technique saves you valuable oils, by needing less oil to get it to emulsify.
You should be able to eyeball what is 1/3 of the total
$ Saving Tip: Since EVOO can be expensive cut the EVOO with a cheaper, neutral oil, like grapeseed oil.
Balance of Sweetness
Add sweet ingredients to a dressing when you want note of sweet flavor. If you are making a spicy dressing, adding sweetness to it will mellow out the intensity of the heat. Use sparingly - a dressing should never taste too sweet; unless you like it that way
Here are some examples of sweeteners you can use for you dressings.
-Syrups (Maple and Fruit)
-Citrus Reductions (I make mine by adding another sweetener and reducing the juice by 1/2 to 3/4′s)
Balance of Aromatics
Aromatics are are the best way to add a deep savory flavor to a dressing. How much you use of an aromatic depends on its strength. For example garlic is a powerful aromatic, and 1 clove is usually enough for any dressing; unless you are making a Caesar dressing. While a green onion is a mild aromatic and you can use a decent amount without overpowering the dressing. Here are some examples of aromatics used in dressings.
-Red and White Onions (medium intensity)
-Brown Onion (strong)
-Green Onion (mild)
I almost always use fresh herbs in my dressings and salads but sometimes dried herbs are better in dressings. For example, I prefer dried oregano over fresh because its often too strong when its fresh. Here are some examples of the herbs I use most often (the intensity level refers to fresh herbs)
This may seem obvious, but it’s one of the most important aspects of cooking and creating dishes on your own.
In cooking there are 5 flavors we play with…
The more flavors used the more interesting the food will taste. In salad creation we always work with sour, salty and bitter; sweet and spicy are optional. A dressing should be well balanced with bitter (evoo), salty and sour (acid); but sometimes the balance of flavor of the salad is achieved from the ingredients in the salad itself. For example, Bitter will always come from the greens used.
Another example is a Lime Vinaigrette. It will pair great with sweet ingredients, like mango and strawberries. Honey and Agave are great to add to a lime vinaigrette, but sometimes I don’t want a sweet dressing, and I’d prefer to let the ingredients take care of the sweetness.
Umami- The Savory flavor
I need to say something about this because I know people will flame me if I don’t. Umami is scientifically considered one of the 5 main flavors and spicy would not be considered a flavor in traditional cooking (I’m from Southern California, the land of Asian and Mexican food; so in my world, spicy is just as much of flavor as the others ). I personally don’t consider Umami a flavor in “flavor profiling,” because to me, Umami is the ultimate flavor – its the savory taste you are striving for through proper seasoning and a well balanced flavor profile.
There are ingredients that contain Umami components, but I choose not to use them as part of flavor profiling. By using ingredients with Umami, you are doing yourself a disservice by not creating your own Umami. Umami ingredients should be the icing on the cake, if you will.
Examples of the more common Umami Ingredients I use in my salads and dressings are, truffle oil, mushrooms, smoked fish, avocado, roasted nuts, ripe tomatoes, parmesan (and any cheese for that matter). I suppose ingredients like brined olives, soy sauce and fish sauce could also be considered umami, but I consider them salty.
MSG is the best example of an umami ingredient, but it has to be synthesized, so I don’t use it.
Creating an Emulsification
There are 2 methods used to Emulsify your ingredients:
-Bowl and Whisk
-Food Processor and Blender.
Roasting is used quite frequently in my recipes, so here are the notes on roasting.
-Roast vegeables between 350-375F.
-Roast by tossing the ingredients in a fat, usually a cheap evoo (save the expensive ones for your dressings), and SnP.
-You can also add spices, herbs and aromatics.
Roasting Peppers and Chilies
Roasting Peppers and Chilies requires a unique technique.
-Place peppers and chillies over and open flame on gas stove or on a grill. Char on all sides rotaiting as needed.
-Place on a sheet pan into a 450F oven. Roast until skin blisters, not burned.
-Place into a plastic bag and close tightly, or wrap in plastic wrap. This will steam the chilies and make it easier to remove the skin. Once they’ve cooled, remove skin and seeds.
I’m constently learning and playing with pickling. I’ll update this in the near future with my expertise; in the meantime, here’s some one else’s.
Video Coming Soon! Click here for wikipedia def
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