There’s nothing wrong with the classic French vinaigrette, often defined as little more than a 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper. But the rest of the world doesn’t feel beholden to that basic dressing paradigm.
Because truthfully, a dressing can be just about anything you drizzle on or toss with something else. In the Middle East, it’s tahini and lemon juice on chopped tomatoes and cucumber. In Morocco, roasted vegetables are dressed with chermoula, a bold puree of copious parsley, cilantro, olive oil and lemon.
We were reminded of this global variety recently by Diane Kochilas, a Greek-American chef whose latest cookbook, “My Greek Table,” includes a guide to that country’s way with dressings. And their way is far more freewheeling than most of us are accustomed to.
Their way is citrus juice instead of vinegar. It’s yogurt, mustard and honey whipped in. It’s crumbled feta cheese, chopped olives, fresh oregano and even ouzo, Greece’s anise-flavored aperitif. And it’s about flavor more than following exacting ratios.
Kochilas inspired us to play with these fresh combinations, remembering that almost anything goes. For a base, we liked a 2:1 ratio of extra-virgin olive oil to acid, though use whatever mix tastes best to you. And we liked her preference for citrus juices—mostly lemon, but also orange—over vinegar.
Lesson learned: The classic French vinaigrette is fine, but it’s just the start.