One of my favorite dressings is a good balsamic vinaigrette. The nice thing about making this dressing is you can go as high-end as you’d like, but even if you make it a super budget item, it’s still going to be better quality than what you’d find at the store.
I believe this came from Cook’s Illustrated – but it was passed to me from a friend, so I’m not positive.
Recipe: Balsamic vinaigrette, makes 1 cup, 1 tablespoon per serving. Cost: $1.26
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons minced shallot, or red onion (I’ve used regular onion, too.)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano, fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Shake all of the ingredients together in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. The dressing can be refrigerated; bring to room temperature, then shake vigorously to recombine before using.
When I make this, I don’t skimp on the salt, and I even add just a bit more. I mash the garlic with the salt by using the side of my knife to get a fine paste. I put the vinegar and mustard in a measuring cup and mix it with a fork, then slowly add the oil, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken. I then drizzle the oil in while I continue briskly stirring it with the fork. (Like making mayo.) I add the rest of ingredients, and pour into a jar.
Note: I will open mine and put in the microwave for a few seconds to melt the olive oil if it’s hardened in the fridge. You may add a little sugar or honey to this, too, if it seems too tart. I think it tastes better after it sits for a bit.
Money and Time Saving Strategies:
- Olive Oil: I generally buy smaller bottles of any of the available grocery store olive oil brands when they are on sale and there is a coupon available. I find the coupons sometimes on hangers, sometimes on boxes of pasta, on the coupon sites and on the olive oil’s website. If I’m pulling a coupon off the web, I’ll usually be able to print it twice – with most coupon printers once the coupon begins to print, hit your back key several times, and you’ll be able to print twice. Every coupon I’ve found for olive oil in recent years has been for $1.00, so at more store; I use them on days when coupons are doubled, meaning that I’ve not only bought at the sale price, I get $2.00 off each bottle. I will try to buy the smaller bottles and buy as many bottles as I can when they are on sale and there are coupons out there, regardless of whether I have olive oil at home or not – I’m not talking huge quantities here, generally 2 to 4 because I’m limited by the amount of coupons available. I shoot for about 8 cents an ounce. Olive oil will keep for quite a long time unopened and in a dark cupboard. I rarely use any other oil, so I do like to keep it on hand. Now and then I’ll buy good olive oil for dipping or a special recipe, but for general cooking, I’ll look for the most cost-effective option. Cost for this recipe: 3/4 cup is 96 cents.
- Balsamic: I rarely see coupons for balsamic vinegar, but when I do, I look for sales. When I’m making something like a vinaigrette, where the flavor is masked by other astringent ingredients, I use the most cost-effective bottle I have. Just like with olive oil, I use the good stuff sparingly. Cost for this recipe: 25 cents.
- Rest of ingredients: I just nipped a few shreds off the onion I was cutting for my soup today, the most amazing Minestrone, and the smidge of garlic and the herbs I estimate at about 5 cents.
- Jar: I now have friends saving their Starbucks bottles for me. They are so perfect for many of my home-made concoctions. They come in two sizes, and the mouths are large enough to pour into. They don’t take up much room in the fridge as many other containers. I love them!
- Salad – just a note, but be sure to check under Saving on Basic Ingredients, Vegetables and Fruits for some discussion on how to get the best pricing on lettuce, etc.
Per Serving: 91 Calories; 10g Fat (97.9% calories from fat); trace Protein; trace Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 75mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
Put Your Own Spin on It:
Vary the herbs, the mustard, the aromatics. You could mix up the vinegar and mustard in the blender and drizzle in the oil for a heavier emulsion.
A dressing I had to pay for, as opposed to something I very well could have gotten free at the store with the right sale and coupon…how does that pay off? For me, it is the quality and the control over the ingredients: no trans-fat, and no questionable additives and preservatives. It tastes better, too!
If you’re curious about some of the additives you’ll find in many dressings, check out my “rant” on Hidden Valley Salad Kit.