There can be no doubt, in my mind anyway, that the most quintessential salad dressing is vinaigrette. This simple combination of oil and vinegar along with seasonings like mustard, herbs, salt and pepper is universally loved and lends itself to an infinite number of variations. It is much more French than what is known in this country as French Dressing. However, as perfect as this dressing is, it is the French themselves who often have an issue with it. In Nancy Mitford’s 1960 novel Don’t Tell Alfred, the formidable Duchess of Sauveterre puts it best:
When she tasted the salad, Mme. de Sauveterre said “Vinegar!”
“Jacques is in despair, Mme. la Duchesse, he forgot to bring a lemon.”
“It is inadmissible. The boy always forgets something. Last time it was the truffles. He has no head.”
Why does vinegar get a bad rap in salad dressing? Well, vinegar, or vinaigre comes from the French word for wine, “vin” and the French word for sour, “aigre.” While we love the acidity that this “sour wine” brings to food, some wine enthusiasts claim that the soured wine in the vinegar is detrimental to the wine in the glass—can actually ‘turn’ the wine that you drink with your meal—in your mouth! As it is unthinkable to stop drinking wine during the salad course, the vinegar has to go…..
Here is a dressing that gets around this issue, using lemon juice and vermouth with some of the other classic components of a vinaigrette like mustard. Savory, salty and tart, this is just one example of a vinegar-free dressing, if you have an issue with vinegar. Personally, I never let anything get in the way of drinking wine with a meal and like nothing better than a salad with vinaigrette and a glass of wine.
Yield 1½ cups
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup dry vermouth
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp pepper
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 tsp salt
¼ cup olive oil
¾ cup canola oil
Combine ingredients in a food processor and mix well.