A year-round staple that pulls double duty as a flavorful marinade for chicken, this versatile homemade dressing will add zip to a wide variety of vegetables and basic pantry ingredients.
The key to fresh, flavorful meals that feel effortless and truly enjoyable? Find a few homemade dressings and sauces that you enjoy and keep them on hand.
A good condiment has the power to perk up the most basic ingredients, from pantry staples like rice, quinoa, and pasta to greens and all sorts of raw and cooked vegetables – not to mention proteins like chicken, fish, lentils, and beans.
Moreover, making your favorite condiments from scratch will likely offer cost savings and reduce the amount of additives and preservatives otherwise consumed via store-bought versions.
This balsamic vinaigrette is an excellent staple to keep on hand, and I’ve used it in countless ways over the years. The more expected green salads and pasta salads are better for it, and an at-the-ready jar of the vinaigrette scores bonus points as a marinade and finishing drizzle for simple yet delicious fare like Grilled Chicken with Tomato Feta Salsa.
Or make a simple quinoa, rice, or couscous salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, and basil, and use the balsamic vinaigrette as your dressing. Add grilled chicken or chickpeas to ratchet up the fill factor. Black olives, artichokes, and baby spinach are worthy add-ins as well.
And don’t forget roasted vegetables. I often mix leftover roasted veggies with greens and a cooked grain and then drizzle of this vinaigrette. It’s also rather tasty on a roasted beet salad with feta or blue cheese and walnuts.
In the super simple green salad department, I’ve gone as basic as lightly coating baby arugula and making that the vegetable side dish (it’s surprisingly satisfying alongside my morning egg scrambles). Layering on tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow bell peppers, avocado, feta cheese, and a hearty dose of sunflower seeds provides added oomph and appealing color.
As a testament to its versatilely, the vinaigrette pairs equally well with summer fruits like strawberries and peaches as well as colder weather staples like apples and pears. Don’t hesitate to add them to your seasonal salads.
A solid framework when using fruit in your salad is the following: Start with one of the fruits and greens of choice. Then add chopped avocado; nuts and/or seeds like pecans, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds; a dried fruit like cranberries or golden raisins; and a cheese like crumbled feta, blue cheese, or coarsely shredded cheddar. Slivered red onion will add zing, or opt for sliced scallions for more subdued onion flavor.
A grain like quinoa will make any green salad more hearty. How much is your call. A little will add heft (and is a good way to use a small amount of leftover cooked grain). Or you can opt for a more grain-forward salad. The beauty of a salad is that there’s no right or wrong with the ratios.
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- 1 small garlic clove, smashed and minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon (15g) Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (27g) honey*
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (90ml) balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup (112ml) olive oil (avocado oil also works well)
In a small bowl or jar with a tight-fitting lid, whisk together the garlic, salt, pepper, Dijon, honey, and balsamic vinegar.
Drizzle the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking as you go, until the dressing is emulsified. When using a jar, add the olive oil, screw the lid on tightly, and shake well.
Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow flavors to blend.
Storage: The vinaigrette will keep several weeks in the refrigerator. Allow it to come to room temperature before using, as the olive oil will separate and become firm (this is normal), and then shake well prior to using.
* The recipe above provides widely appealing, balanced flavor but can be modified to taste: For a tangier vinaigrette, use 1 tablespoon of honey. For a sweeter dressing, add an additional teaspoon. For a vegan recipe, replace the honey with maple syrup or agave.
An easy marinade and dinner inspiration: Use ¼ to ⅓ cup of vinaigrette for each pound of chicken and refrigerate in a zip-top bag, overnight for maximum flavor. Grill or bake and then top with chopped fresh tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, a dusting of slivered basil, and an extra drizzle of the vinaigrette.
Recipe first posted July 31, 2013… with the following photo!