I am a scientist who loves to cook because there are many similarities between working in a lab and cooking in a kitchen. I love to share my cooking experience with you and to inspire others to cook.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fresh Salad Dressing and Japanese Salad Dressing

I grew up with Thousand Island salad dressing (hmm...haven't touched that thing for eons of years). Then I became a little more sophisticated with balsamic vinaigrette and red wine vinegar vinaigrette. It is time to make my own vinaigrette.  I made my own vinaigrette in the past but it was more like tossing the salads in balsamic vinegar and olive oil instead of "making vinaigrette".

I decided to make two kinds of salad dressings because, sometimes, good things come in pairs. Don't you agree?

First salad dressing - Classic French Vinaigrette
Second salad dressing - Japanese Vinaigrette

** Can someone from Japan tell me whether "Japanese Vinaigrette" actually exist? You know, the ubiquitous salad dressing served at every America Japanese restaurant. Is Japanese Vinaigrette as Japanese as General Tsao Chicken is to Chinese?

I have decided to follow two recipe sources, as usual, as references, instead of strict adherence to "protocols".  I chose Eric Ripert's Garlic Vinaigrette and Smitten Kitchen's carrot-ginger dressing.

I started with the most challenging of the two dressings - carrot-ginger dressing. Why is it the most challenging? Try grating a carrot!!! I guarantee you will have limp-arm-syndrome at the end. Smitten Kitchen used a food processor to pulverize the carrot. I am not sure if I agree with that technique.

                                                                adding the sesame oil

Japanese/Carrot-ginger dressing
I used one large carrot, a thumb-size ginger, salt, olive oil + flaxseed oil mixture, sesame oil, rice vinegar and sugar.

Yield : 1 cup of dressing

1. Mix the grated carrot and ginger and add a tablespoon of rice vinegar.
2. Let this soak for 5-10 minutes (I learned this step from other websites).
3. Add a tablespoon of sesame oil and 3-4 tablespoon of olive. Mix this gently together with a spoon.

** You will begin to see the oil and the acid "bind to each other" (someone educate me with the right terminology).

** I also added flaxseed oil to balance the flavor of the olive oil because flaxseed oil has a more neutral flavor.

4. Adjust the taste with salt, sugar, salt, oil and vinegar.

** This is when you let your taste bud do the work. I went through at least 10 tastings with various adjustments to arrive at what I want. The rule of thumb is - 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil.

Garlic/French Vinaigrette
I saw Eric Ripert making this on TV. You can't really go wrong with learning how to make French Vinaigrette from the best French chef in the world.

For this dressing, I used two small pieces of shallots, two cloves of garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, salt, olive oil + flaxseed oil mixture, high quality Dijon mustard (ain't a French Vinaigrette without the mustard)

** I don't have red wine vinegar and I don't plan on buying one since I have other vinegars at home, so I use lemon juice instead.

Yield: half a cup of dressing

1. Chop the garlic and shallot, place in a mixing bowl. Add some lemon zest.
2. Add the lemon juice (from 1 lemon). Marinade for 5-10 minutes.
3. Add a tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Mix.
4. Add the oil, sugar, salt. Mix it gently by constant stirring.

** as chemistry dictates, oil and water do not mix but something magical happens when you stir them long enough. The oil molecule is trapped within the water molecule.

5. Just like before, taste taste taste! Keep adjusting the flavor.

** if it is too acidic, add more oil but you don't want it to be so oily, so add sugar.

As for assembling the salad, here's my rule of thumb:
Something sweet, something crunchy, and something tangy - canned oranges, crushed walnuts, sliced tomatoes, respectively.

The carrot-ginger salad dressing is a success because I have past experiences as reference. I am a little unsure about the French Vinaigrette because I never had it before. But the flavor seems just fine.

My food tasters liked this salad and the dressings. Some of them combined both and they liked it too!