Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette (with three variations)

Most instructions suggest whisking the oil into the vinegar to create an emulsion.  I prefer a shortcut that even a preschooler can manage and that works as well as the classic method.  Put all the ingredients into a clean, empty jelly jar.  Screw the lid on tightly and shake.  Just before you’re ready to toss the salad, shake the jar to make sure the mixture is combined well.


  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 6-7 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Mustard Vinaigrette – Add one tsp (or more) Dijon mustard, one small garlic clove (pressed or finely minced) plus a large pinch each of dried oregano and thyme.  Let the dressing sit for half an hour allowing the flavors to fully blend.  This peppy mixture works well on strong greens as well as those with plenty of crisp structure.  For a French-style green salad toss together shredded carrots, slivered red onion and leaf lettuce plus a healthy handful of arugula.  A little sliced celery adds a delightful crunch.  Or take the French theme one step further by throwing in some steamed potato cubes, green beans, tomato, cured olives and hard-boiled egg wedges for a take on Salade Nicoise.  Add some tuna on top for an authentic main dish.

Shallot Vinaigrette – Use the balsamic vinegar or substitute sherry vinegar if you like and add one Tbsp minced shallot, plus a pinch each of dried oregano and thyme. For a lovely winter salad try dressing a combination of leaf lettuce or spinach, sliced apples (some tart, some sweet), slivered red onion, toasted walnuts or pecans and gorgonzola or goat cheese.

Citrus Vinaigrette – Substitute sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar for the balsamic and add 2 Tbsp fresh citrus juice (especially orange, grapefruit or a combination).  Add a pinch or two of dried herbs if desired.  Toss this dressing with greens of choice plus red onion slivers, orange and grapefruit sections, radish slices and avocado cubes.   Toss in a few spiced pecans for an extra crunch (courtesy of Trader Joe’s).

Other possible additions for killer dressings:  for fruity sweetness try honey, crushed berries and fruit vinegars; yogurt, mayonnaise, sour cream and crème fraiche add creamy richness; fresh and dried herbs lend distinctive flavors, for instance thyme, oregano, tarragon, chives or basil; lemon and lime juice can be substituted for some or all of the vinegar (to taste).  For ethnic flair try minced fresh ginger, curry powder, garam masala or chaat masala (Indian); ground cumin and chopped cilantro (Mexican); minced ginger, garlic, rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil or soy sauce (Asian).

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