Well-Dressed :: 4 Vinaigrettes for Stylish Summer Entertaining

It was an unbearably hot summer day.  A stripped down, wearing next to nothing, lounging carelessly in the pool kind of day. 

When the time came to take a break from the sweltering sun, I slowly meandered up the deck stairs in search of a cold drink.  In true form, my mom was in the kitchen passionately working on another magnum opus for dinner that night.  

As I watched her slowly and skillfully whisk olive oil into a small yellow bowl, my curiosity quickly piqued. 

“So, what are you making?” I asked. 

She nonchalantly replied, “Oh, it’s nothing; just a simple vinaigrette for the salad tonight.” 

My world was officially rocked

Up until that point, at the tender age of ten, I thought salad dressing only came from a bottle, was loaded with salt and sugar, and was impossibly difficult to make.

“Why haven’t you taught me this before?” I asked in a somewhat miffed tone.

With a smirk on her face, she cheerfully replied, “Hmm, I don’t recall that you’ve ever asked.”  

That fateful summer day I learned the art of the vinaigrette.  Something that once seemed so complex and mysterious couldn’t be simpler.  The best part is that, despite the traditional ratio of three parts oil, one part vinegar, I learned that it can be so much more.

Crafted with summer entertaining in mind, here are four unique twists on the vinaigrette.  Smoky grilled peaches, bright ruby berries, sun-kissed heirloom tomatoes, aromatic saffron threads and fresh garden herbs quickly elevate even the simplest salad.

 

Cherry-Berry Balsamic

A collision of tart and sweet, this quick blender vinaigrette can be made in 15 minutes and used on everything from salads to grilled meats.  Try with a spinach, goat cheese and toasted almond salad or drizzle over grilled pork or lamb seasoned with garlic and rosemary.  

  • 1/2 cup Bing cherries, pitted and halved
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, halved and hulled
  • 1/2 cup aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt + freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Add cherries, strawberries and vinegar to a blender and pulse to combine. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and run on low for about a minute until emulsified (completely combined).  

Season with salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper.  Transfer to an air-tight glass jar and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

 

Ouzo, Lemon + Mint

Ouzo (oo – like the wo in two + zo ) is an anise-flavored aperitif well-loved in Greece.  In fact, it’s so loved that there are actual ouzeris, drinking and eating spots specializing in ouzo and mezethes (small bites) to go with it.

 Its flavor is somewhat similar to Sambuca (Italy) and a less potent version of Absinthe (France). 

While not a vinaigrette suitable for kids, it adds quite a kick to dishes that typically pair well with fennel.  Try drizzling over a salad of watermelon, basil + feta for a festive summer side.

  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 4 tablespoons ouzo
  • handful fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • sea salt + freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Add the lemon juice, ouzo, mint and honey to a blender and pulse to combine.  Slowly drizzle in the grapeseed oil and run on low for about a minute until emulsified (completely combined).  

Season with salt and black pepper.  Transfer to an air-tight glass jar and store in the refrigerator for about a week.

 

Grilled Peach, Ginger + Lime

I remember the first time I sunk my teeth into a subtly smoky grilled peach. It was so good that it almost ruined the celebrated act of eating a freshly picked peach for me.  With fond memories, this vinaigrette was created with that first bite in mind.  

Try over a salad featuring a peppery green, like arugula, or over grilled chicken, scallops or a hearty white fish.

  • juice of three limes
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar (or champagne vinegar)
  • 2 peaches, halved and grilled*
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3 teaspoons finely chopped ginger root
  • 1 cup grapeseed oil
  • sea salt + freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

* To grill the peaches, remove the pit and brush each side with grapeseed oil.  Lightly season with salt and place over medium-high heat on the grill.  Cook for about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes per side, or until grill marks form and the peaches begin to soften.

For the vinaigrette, add the lime juice, vinegar, cooled peaches, honey and ginger to a blender and pulse to combine.  Slowly drizzle in the grapeseed oil and run on low for about a minute until emulsified (completely combined).  

Season with salt and black pepper.  Transfer to an air-tight glass jar and store in the refrigerator for about a week.


Heirloom Tomato + Saffron 

Similar to the fact that it’s not considered a good parenting decision to declare favorites among children, it would be tough for me to say which one of these vinaigrettes I like best.  

However, this one makes me smile — a lot.

It’s bright and clean with just the right amount of hay-honey notes from the saffron threads.  Try over grilled chicken or fish, poached or scrambled eggs, grilled vegetables, as a steaming liquid for summer shellfish or in any salad you’d normally use tomatoes.  

  • 2 medium heirloom tomatoes, halved, stem and core removed (for best color, try orange, yellow and red varieties)
  • 1 pinch saffron threads*
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt + freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

* If fresh and good quality, a small pinch of saffron will go a long way.

In a blender, add tomatoes, saffron, vinegar, garlic and honey and pulse to combine.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and run on low for about a minute until emulsified (completely combined).  

Season with salt and black pepper.  Transfer to an air-tight glass jar and store in the refrigerator for about a week.


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Tessa W.

Hmm … they all look great to me. I may just have to try them all!

Fascinating combinations! I’m enchanted. And I was just getting so tired of the basic French mustard vinaigrette. You just rocked MY world. 🙂

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