No, I’m not suggesting you adopt the cast of Priscilla Queen of the Dessert. I’m talking about using salad dressings for more than their primary use. You see, one of the secrets of pantry cooking – especially when you’re setting up your cottage or country house kitchen – is to limit the number of ingredients you have on hand by using them in different ways. That’s why I recommend using vinaigrettes, either on their own or with a little addition here and there, to marinate meats, fish and tofu.
Although bought vinaigrette-style salad dressings can easily be used to marinate fish, steaks, chops and tofu, I’m a big fan of making my own fresh vinaigrettes. Homemade vinaigrette always tastes better and it usually costs a fraction of the bottle cost to make an equal volume of a homemade version.
Don’t worry – making a salad dressing/marinade is easy. The basic tips you need to remember to be successful are:
• Use 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil for a tart dressing, and 1 part vinegar to 4 parts oil for a less tart dressing (For instance, when using balsamic vinegar, I usually use the 3:1 ratio since balsamic is slightly sweet, ditto when I use lemon or lime juice instead of vinegar. However, when a tart red or white wine vinegar is on the roster, 4:1 works better).
• If you make a big batch of dressing to keep in the refrigerator to use over the course of a week or two, omit the minced garlic and add it to each portion just when you’re ready to use it. Otherwise, the garlic flavour will dominate after a day or so.
This recipe should be like your phone number: one of those things you just know. If you can’t remember it, consider having it tattooed on your wrist for easy reference.
1 tbsp (15 mL) white or red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp (2 mL) Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and freshly ground pepper
pinch granulated sugar
1/4 cup (50 mL) extra virgin olive oil
Stir vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and sugar until well mixed. Whisking, drizzle in olive oil. Recipe doubles and triples easily.
Makes about 1/3 cup (75 mL), enough for one large tossed salad or to marinate 1 lb (500 g) protein.
• Lemon-Balsamic: Substitute balsamic vinegar for wine vinegar and stir in 1/2 tsp (2 mL) finely chopped fresh rosemary and 1/2 tsp (2 mL) finely grated lemon peel.
• Orchard: Substitute cider vinegar for wine vinegar and stir in 1/2 tsp (2 mL) chopped fresh thyme.
• Red peppercorn: Crush 1/4 tsp (1 mL) red peppercorns and add to vinegar mixture. Increase sugar to 1/2 tsp (2 mL).
• Lemon-lime: Substitute 1 tsp (5 mL) each lemon and lime juice for vinegar. Increase sugar to 1/2 tsp (2 mL).
Drop by tomorrow when I’ll be sharing tips for making light dressings and marinades, otherwise known as Skinny Cross Dressers!
In the meantime, feel free to add your own marinating and salad dressing tips below.