On Vinaigrette

A friend, and coding mentor, of mine dropped me a line over the weekend regarding the humble topic of salad dressing.

The first salad that I can can remember ever enjoying was one that I served to customers as a waiter at a restaurant called Tapa Tio in Columbus Ohio. It was the mid 1990’s and I had closed both my forestry studies at OSU and a clumsy/youthful/great five year stint as a manager of a fine wine shop. When I moved on to restaurant work I immediately fell in love with the theater of table service.

Tapa Tio had two brilliant chefs and a crew of the best sous chefs and kitchen staff, all complimented by an amazing wait and bar staff. You had to be there, it was truly epic. One of the items on the menu was a salad of greens, sunflower seeds, mandarin oranges and a delicate dressing with a hint of spice. Light enough to enjoy the bitterness of the greens, meat of the nuts and the sweetness of the oranges.

Anyway, back to salads……

So when my friend emailed me about dressings that don’t rely so heavily on salt that’s the time, place and dish I thought about. Given the secret equation to all cooking, including salads, is this: flavor = taste + mouth feel + aroma + X (Referencing the Flavor Bible by Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg here).

The recipe that follows is not the side salad from Tapa Tio. It’s actually kind of a riff on something from Cook’s Illustrated regarding a “foolproof vinaigrette.” Continuing on those two thoughts, the architecture of the dish is a reflection of what I learned at Tapa Tio.

A good salad

(Depending on what you have at the time or are in the mood for.)
Bitterness; mesclun, radichio, romaine, spinach, micro greens etc…
Sourness; julienned celery, lemon zest, radishes, anything crisp and slightly tart.
Sweetness; Asian pears, apples, mandarins oranges etc…
Umami; pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds, figs, mushrooms (which sparkle with blue cheese) etc… not really msg but kinda complex is what you want.
Note, if your diet can tolerate it, goat cheese is amazing.
Salt; rub the salad bowl with a clove of garlic crushed with the blunt side of a big blade (let sit for 5 minutes before use).
Mouth-feel; the dressing is the device that makes sense of the collection of fresh ingredients in the bowl.



1 tbsp. Wine vinegar
1 ½ tsp. Minced shallot
½ tsp. Light mayo
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
Ground pepper
3 tbsp. Extra-virgin olive oil


Combine vinegar, shallot, mayonnaise, mustard & pepper in a small bowl.
Whisk until mixture is milky in appearance with no lumps of mayo remaining.
Whisk olive oil into bowl.
Can be stored for up to 2 weeks.

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