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Summer Vinaigrettes

1 master recipe, 4 creative salad variations


As we near the halfway point of summer’s salad days, it’s time to switch things up. By riffing on one master vinaigrette recipe, you can make four unique salads for revamped lunches, picnics, and dinners.

We’re knee-deep in salad season; how can we avoid fresh greens fatigue? Sure, we’ve traded in the nutritionally vacant iceberg lettuce for sturdier, more nutritious greens such as kale and arugula, but there’s so much more to explore. The right vinaigrette can make a salad sing. Skipping store-bought dressings will not only save money, but will also result in far healthier and tastier salads. Fresh dressings made from high quality oil, a hit of vinegar, and a couple of background flavour enhancers will encourage even picky eaters to eat their veggies. For the most flavourful dressing you can make without a recipe or measuring cup, start with 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar in a sealable glass jar. Season with a spoonful each of mustard (for emulsifying), sweetener (try maple syrup, honey, or orange juice), and something salty (tamari, soy sauce, or miso do the trick). A gentle garlic undertone (start with half a clove) is optional but recommended to bring it all together. Shake it all up and your greens are raring to go. Forget salad boredom. With a master vinaigrette recipe on hand, you can make countless variations and transform just about any food into a stunning salad this summer.



Healthy salad oils

The key to a crave-worthy vinaigrette is the oil. Starting with 2 parts high quality oil will produce a smooth, tasty salad slicker. Keep it simple with one oil or mix two together to create either a softer tasting or more pronounced dressing.

  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • avocado oil
  • flaxseed oil
  • pumpkin seed oil
  • hemp oil
  • toasted sesame oil (use up to 1 tsp/5 ml as a seasoning only)
  • liquefied coconut oil (mix with a liquid-at-room-temperature oil such as avocado oil to keep fluid)

Consider the vinegar

Vinegar or a citrus-based acid component is needed to perk up a dressing. If you prefer a less sharp dressing, use slightly less than 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil. Some vinegars, such as balsamic and white wine, can come off a little strong; for balance, use lemon juice in tandem with these.

  • apple cider vinegar
  • white wine vinegar
  • red wine vinegar
  • balsamic vinegar
  • coconut vinegar
  • rice wine vinegar
  • lemon juice
  • lime juice

Sweeten things up

The secret to a more-ish salad dressing—and consequently, a more-ish salad—is a touch of sweetness. Natural liquid sugars work best to avoid unwanted grit. A tablespoon or so per batch of dressing is all that’s required.

  • honey
  • maple syrup
  • agave
  • brown rice syrup
  • coconut nectar
  • orange juice
  • date paste (thickens the dressing as well)
  • applesauce (thickens the dressing as well)
  • blended ripe pear (thickens the dressing as well)

Make it creamy

If you’re a fan of creamy dressings over vinaigrettes, mix a spoonful of the following emulsifiers into the Master Vinaigrette for a smoother salad.

  • tahini
  • natural nut butters
  • Dijon mustard
  • coconut milk
  • puréed roasted garlic
  • full-fat plain yogurt or kefir
  • miso

Spice it up

Explore the regions of the world and avoid salad dressing boredom with herbs and spices. Use 1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried herbs or spices, or 1 to 2 tsp (5 to 10 mL) chopped fresh herbs per batch of Master Vinaigrette.

  • Greek: dried or fresh oregano
  • Italian: dried or fresh thyme, basil, and oregano
  • French: dried thyme or fresh lemon thyme
  • Moroccan: ground cinnamon and cumin
  • Middle Eastern: za'atar and sumac
  • Scandinavian: dried or fresh dill
  • Indian: curry powder and turmeric
  • Asian: five-spice powder and ginger

Bring it all together

Exploring regional cuisines is easy with homemade vinaigrettes. Let the world inspire you!

  • For Asian-inspired, try avocado oil and rice vinegar with miso, brown rice syrup, garlic, ginger, and a touch of toasted sesame oil.
  • For Indian, add a splash of coconut milk to the Master Vinaigrette with a little curry powder and turmeric.
  • For a classic Greek salad, mix red wine vinegar with lemon juice for your acid component and spike with dried oregano.



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Leah PayneLeah Payne