Pantry Staple Vinaigrettes

Every home cook needs a good salad dressing recipe—or five—to know by heart. They’re so easy to put together and most are made with ingredients you already have in your kitchen. Take two minutes to make one and you’ll see such a stark difference from any packaged dressing you’ve been using. Armed with these recipes, and the handy “Use It For” suggestions, you’ll never go back to bottled again.


Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed, minced or grated
¼ teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon maple syrup or honey
¼ cup or more extra virgin olive oil

Stir together the vinegar with the garlic, salt and pepper and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Whisk in the syrup or honey, then the olive oil little by little, until you have a nice emulsion. Taste and add more oil, vinegar or salt if needed.

Use it for: Spicy greens like arugula or pepper cress, alone or tossed with tomatoes, shards of Parmigiano Reggiano and chopped toasted nuts. In the heat of the summer, pour onto a colorful platter of heirloom tomatoes dressed with creamy burrata and some fresh basil leaves—with a crusty loaf of bread, dinner’s served.


Garlicky-Dijon Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed, minced or grated
¼ teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
pinch sugar
¼ cup or more extra virgin olive oil

Stir together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, pepper and sugar. Allow the seasonings to permeate the vinegar by letting it sit for 3-5 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil little by little, until you have a nice emulsion. Taste and add more oil if needed.

Use it for: Everything! It’s especially nice on butter lettuce, drizzled over warm boiled potatoes or to season a traditional salade niçoise. Also good on hard-boiled eggs, in place of mayo on a ham or salami sandwich or tossed with steaming-hot green beans and tarragon.


Classic French Mustard-Shallot Vinaigrette

½ small shallot, minced
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon whole grain French mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
pinch sugar
¼ cup or more extra virgin olive oil

Lightly pickle the minced shallot in the vinegar with the mustard, salt, pepper and sugar by letting it sit for 3-5 minutes. Whisk in the oil and taste for seasoning, adding more oil or salt if needed.

Use it for: Mesclun greens mixed with fresh herbs, drizzle over still-warm grilled vegetables or as a dressing for a pulled roast chicken salad. Also nice on roasted sweet potatoes or warm boiled French lentils with sharp feta cheese.


Lemony Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

2 red or white scallions, minced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
¼ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
pinch sugar
¼ cup or more extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup crumbled blue cheese, local if possible
¼ teaspoon fresh thyme or lemon thyme leaves, with flowers if possible

Stir together the scallions, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and sugar. Whisk in the olive oil, enough to make an emulsion. Mash in the blue cheese and add the thyme leaves.

Use it for: Cobb salads, red leaf lettuce salads, spread onto hot grilled toast, tossed with warm boiled beets or poured over thick slices of heirloom tomatoes showered with basil leaves. Makes a nice (lighter) change as a dip for spicy grilled chicken wings, steamed peeled asparagus or crisp sugar snap peas.


Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dressing

½ small hot red chili, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar (coconut or palm sugar are nice here)
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
¼ cup neutral oil, like grape seed or safflower

Whisk all ingredients together and allow the sugar to dissolve, 3-5 minutes, before using.

Use it for: Cucumber, rice noodle and peanut salads with lots of mint and cilantro or as a dressing for spicy Asian greens. Pour over grilled coconut milk-marinated shrimp, use as a dipping sauce for summer rolls, spoon onto thinly sliced grilled flank steak or toss through a grated carrot salad. Goes particularly well with radishes.

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Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, vegetable gardener and managing editor of Edible Boston. She can be reached at sarah@edibleboston.com