03 June 2013

Cheap eats: Pantry vinaigrette

This isn't haute cuisine; it's merely cheap cuisine, nothing fancy, made with ordinary items you almost certainly have in your kitchen cabinets at all times.

The Rowhouse Livin' household finds that most bottled salad dressings are too sweet for our tastes, or they have hippie-scaring preservatives. When a bottle comes our way via a potluck or family get-together, it will often end up sitting in the fridge, unused, for literally a year. And who knows how old that dressing is? When were the ingredients produced, then packed, then sold at the grocery store, and then finally opened? Let's try something fresher -- especially considering that, at my count, we've had about ten heads of salad greens and two dozen radishes already this season with our CSA subscription.

This vinaigrette works with lettuce-based salads as well as pasta and cold potato salads. You can up the salt content if your greens are a little bitter. You can add dried onion flakes, dried marjoram, mustard seeds, or tarragon if you like. Paprika gives it a little kick. And it holds up well with crumbled bleu cheese over spinach.


  • 1 part white vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 2 to 3 parts olive oil


    Small portion (for one salad, serving 4): Pour 2 tablespoons vinegar into the salad bowl. Add flavorings and stir to moisten. Whisk in 4 to 6 tablespoons olive oil until emulsified. Let stand while salad is prepared, at least 5 minutes. Whisk a few strokes again, add salad ingredients, and toss until salad is coated and a little wilted.

    Large portion (to keep in the fridge): Put 1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup vinegar, and flavorings in a pint jar. (Increase quantity of flavorings to taste.) Close jar tightly and shake until emulsified. Let stand at least 5 minutes. Before using, shake again. Store unused portion in the fridge and use within a few weeks.

    Fresh herbs option (to go with a large portion): This works best with a single herb at a time, not a combination, and is a lovely way to feature whatever bounty is overwhelming the garden or the CSA box that week. Select a cup or so of fresh herbs. Prep them as necessary and chop them coarsely or into chiffonade. Add to the pint jar with the oil, vinegar, and seasoning, and proceed as above.
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