Versatile Vinaigrette

A vinaigrette is essentially a mixture of oil and vinegar, and the base of many salad dressings and, as I recently discovered, having “illegitimately” (or instinctively) used it as such, is also used as a marinade.

That said, it’s a fantastic base for salad dressings, including a French dressing which my mother taught me to make, at the ripe old age of eight or nine.  The receptacle in which I was taught to make it was completely un-traditional:  it was the wooden spoon and bowl of a salad set that had been a wedding present to her and Dad in 1961.  I have no idea what happened to that set;  I was quite sad when I discovered that Mum had stopped using it and had discarded it.  Effectively, the salad was dressed in situ:  a sprinkling of salt, pepper and sugar;   this was followed by using the serving spoon, and almost filling this with sunflower oil (no olive oil in those days) and a little vinegar, which were mixed together and drizzled over the salad.  The latter, incidentally, consisted largely of lettuce leaves and little else.

As we grew up, the dressing became a little more “complicated” and has become the basis of any salad dressing that I make (when we don’t rely on the ubiquitous olive oil and balsamic vinegar which is our “standard”).  The basic version, which I make in relatively large quantities because it keeps well (in the fridge), consists of the following:

  • 2 parts olive oil
  • 1 part vinegar – not white spirit – I use white wine, apple cider or tarragon vinegar (this last is the traditional vinegar used for French dressing and Dijon mustard), and sometimes even red wine vinegar
  • salt, pepper and sugar to taste
  • 1 part whole grain mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled (optional)

All this is mixed together (usually in a jam jar) and stored in the fridge for use as and when ….

“When” has happened relatively frequently of late because we’ve had a surfeit of garden produce; specifically, peas, broad beans, broccoli (going to seed) and beetroot.  Some of the vegetables have been eaten hot, but because we’ve had some gloriously warm, sunny weather, they have, more often than not, been incorporated into salads.

As you know, even after years of growing my own, I still get a helluva kick out of producing meals with homegrown produce.  None more so when an entire dish is homegrown.

It’s easy to make a mixed salad, but sometimes in a mixed salad, one loses the flavours of some of the ingredients.  Sometimes, too, the available ingredients don’t work so well together.  So, I make a salad platter.  I suppose that some would call it a deconstructed salad, keeping the flavours separate and so that people can choose what to combine with what (or not).


In the salad, above, beetroot was resting on rocket which, as I’ve mentioned before, work well together, and the broccoli on young beetroot leaves.  Over the entire platter, I drizzled my standard French dressing including on the fresh peas, that had been brought to the boil with a mint sprig and then blanched, and broad beans.  These last had been lightly boiled, also blanched but popped out of their skins before they were spread like shiny green jewels on the plate.

So why have I been wittering on about this dressing being a good base?  Well, the other evening I decided, based on the fact that a mixed salad can be somewhat underwhelming for the ingredients, and what we had in the garden, I produced a Four Salad Platter.


On the face of it, this platter seems very similar to the other.  Yes, it was dressed with my basic French dressing, but each individual salad included different fresh herbs that introduced the flavours that ensured that the platter consisted of four, individual salads.  The broad beans were liberally sprinkled with chopped, garden fresh mint and the nasturtiums are a natural complement to the broccoli.  In addition to the usual ingredients in a French salad, I included (also from the garden) Pepino melon, pineapple sage, chopped chives and beautiful blue Borage flowers.

So, on the French dressing base, the fresh herbs provide the nuanced flavours that make the salad platter, according to The Husband, fantastic!

© Fiona’s Favourites 2015

7 thoughts on “Versatile Vinaigrette

  1. Nice looking salads, people don’t use veg enough in salads. We tend to have EEVO and wine or sherry vinegar, unless I make a dressing which is similar to yours, Dijon mustard, oil, vinegar, sometimes garlic. I add the salt and pepper to the salad, but def no sugar. I do a different one for courgettes with dill and gherkins, but can’t remember what that is, wholegrain mustard, chives and garlic as well, from memory.


    1. Thank you, and I agree – vegetables in salads are definitely under-used. We are lucky that we are able to get fabulous, unfiltered olive oil from a local farmer. Sometimes I substitute the sugar for honey and confess that over the years I have started using less and less of it. I wish I could grow dill. It is one of the most difficult herbs to grow, here and hard to find in the shops.


      1. I bought a dill plant (80 cents) last week, so I’m hoping it will take. As well as salads, it’s a fantastic accompaniment in legume (fresh and dried) dishes. Plus the feathery leaves are pretty. The Mediterranean climate is sooooo different to the UK for growing herbs though, it’s virtually the complete opposite. I have rampant basil (I let it self seed) yet chives, which were so hardy in the UK, are sad and miserable. I’ll keep you posted on the dill progress – if there is any. The shop only had two so natch I picked the strongest looking.

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      2. I’ve got chives to get rid of: pity you’re not closer 🙂 They die back in winter and then return with a vengance as spring arrives. I’m hoping my basil will have self-sown, but that’s also temperamental not liking to grow in the same place twice. My tarragon has re-emerged, and the garden is full of wild fennel (not Florence, sadly, but still lovely flavour and feathery leaves); the search for dill continues….oh, and rhubarb….

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  2. OOHHHH! Everything you mentioned here I have growing in my slowly built perennial garden and annual gardens –

    ALAS! I’ve spent years learning how to imrpove my soil, grow complementary things together for mutual benefit, carefully protect the natural life cycle of plants, and taking advantage of their wonderful tendency to go forth and prosper, how to plant items that love my local environment, and play well together, but do I know how to boil, blanch, mix the harvest in my meals?

    Heck no! I’ve spent so much time learning how to grow it, without knowing how to best utilize for a beautiful meal table – 🙂

    I can’t wait to try this out – olive oil mixed with balsalmic or Bragg’s apple cider vinegar or Red Wine (and sometimes red wine vinegar :)) are my common go-tos cause I spend so much time making homemade sauces, tomato or red pepper based sauces, I just don’t even have white wine on hand for quick meal prep – and get a sugar headache from white wine products if I get my nutrition straight from the source – – LOL – I just haven’t expanded much in kitchen experiences that much to – –

    I spent years tyring to set a pretty and tasteful table – then learned the powerful satisfying to both body and soul, benefits of Real Food – and got so wrapped around the axel about how to grow sustainable said foods, I still haven’t gotten back to setting a pretty and awesome meal on the table – instead, I yell out, “go grab the salt shaker and sprinkle some fresh peas for a snak – and then get back to work, I want this garden area finished and prepped for next spring before we quit working tonight – – ”

    LOL – I’m despicable – honest…but despicable….:)


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