I’m fantasizing about the south of France a lot lately and summer travels. Eating fresh green salads with a homemade French vinaigrette is one way to transport me back to the sunshine outside a Provencal cafe with a glass of rosé. I eat tons of salads in the summertime and this is my go-to dressing that I never get bored of eating.
I started making my own French vinaigrette years ago after one such trip and I can’t imagine ever buying bottled dressing again. You can make delicious dressing which tastes better, is far healthier, and is a fraction of the price. And it’s so easy!
Here the quality of the ingredients is key. Use real Dijon mustard that’s actually from France, or you may end up with something which is an interpretation and not actually Dijon mustard at all. I like Maille, which is easy to find in most good supermarkets. Whole Foods carries it or you can order it from Amazon. Real sherry or red wine vinegar – not distilled white vinegar or balsamic vinegar. I have also experimented with using apple cider vinegar and liked the results. I’m always trying to look for easy ways to sneak in a bit of apple cider vinegar because it’s so good for you (I use Braggs) but I don’t like to drink it (unless I’m feeling under the weather).
Finally, be sure to use a good quality olive oil – read the label to make sure you’re using 100% olive oil, because lower quality oils are often blends of inferior oils. And if you look at the measurements, French vinaigrette (and most other salad dressing) is mostly olive oil, so don’t skimp here. I could go on and on about the olive oil (recalling a special day spent tasting olive oils in St. Remy-de-Provence). If I don’t have anything special on hand, I use the organic extra-virgin cold-pressed Whole Foods brand olive oil. Sometimes I include Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil because I’m always looking for a way to incorporate it to get the brain-boosting benefits – it’s odorless and tasteless so it blends in well without affecting the flavor (I do 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 Brain Octane).
And don’t leave out the shallots. It’s really just not French vinaigrette without the shallots. Some people use fresh minced garlic instead of shallots, but holy garlic breath! As much as I love garlic, I prefer shallots in my salad dressing.
When you make the salad dressing, put the vinegar, sea salt and minced shallots in the jar or bowl or whatever you use (I peeled the label off a kombucha bottle and use that). Then just let them sit for a few minutes and meld their flavors for 5 or 10 minutes before you add the Dijon mustard and olive oil and pepper. Put the top on the bottle and shake it vigorously to create an emulsion. Then the important part – taste it and adjust to your preference.
I only typed this recipe because someone asked me for it – usually, I don’t measure out my ingredients – I just sort of wing it and taste it a couple of times as I go. So start with the below ingredients and tweak it to your own tastes. I usually end up adding more Dijon mustard.
A good rule of thumb for any salad dressing is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, so try to stay in that general neighborhood, erring on the side of a bit more olive oil rather than less. I usually eat a big salad for lunch and unless I’m sitting at a cafe in the South of France, I almost never have wine with my lunch. So I tend to go for a tangy salad dressing, but Julia Child recommends 5 parts oil to 1 part vinegar if wine will be served with the meal.
- 2 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon of minced shallots
- 1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (start with 1)
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
This salad dressing tastes best if it’s made freshly each day, but I often make a larger quantity and save it in a jar in the fridge for a couple of days. If you do this, be sure to take out and let it come to room temperature before adding to your salad.
Do you make your own salad dressings? What’s your favorite? Do you have a special twist on a French vinaigrette that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!
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