Zingy citrus juice adds freshness and flair to any salad. Whether you prefer the sweeter acidity of orange juice or the bright assertiveness of lemon, using freshly squeezed citrus juice -- and sometimes zest -- as part of your homemade salad dressing wakes up the flavor of your salad or any other foods you drizzle it over. Once you have a handle on the basic method, add more complex flavors by using fresh herbs and other ingredients.
At its most basic, you can follow the classic formula to make any vinaigrette dressing by combining one part of citrus juice with three parts of oil. Because citrus juice typically has less acidity than vinegar, an all-citrus dressing can have a ratio more like two parts oil to one part acid, according to the All New All Purpose Joy of Cooking. Essentially, once you try the dressing using one of the two basic ratios, you can adjust the amount of citrus -- and acid overall -- to suit your palate. If you like a citrus-forward, tangy dressing, you may prefer to add more citrus juice. For a smoother, more mellow flavor, use more oil.
Making Citrus Vinaigrette
There's no rule that says you can't use vinegar and citrus in the same dressing. To make a flavorful, well balanced citrus vinaigrette as inspired by Bon Appetit, combine one finely chopped shallot with 3/4 cup of oil, 1/4 cup of mild vinegar such as white wine or white balsamic, 3 tablespoons of fresh lime or lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice and 1/4 teaspoon of lime or lemon zest in a bowl or a small lidded jar. Whisk the ingredients together to blend it, or put the lid on the jar and shake it vigorously to blend the ingredients. Season the dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
Use fresh citrus juice as the star ingredient to add acidity without the assertiveness of vinegar by making a citronette, a vinaigrette minus the vinegar. For a basic citronette, start by rolling the uncut citrus fruit on a cutting board to loosen the fruit and make it easier to squeeze the juice out. Finely dice one shallot -- or add 1 tablespoon of red or Vidalia onion -- to a bowl. Add the citrus juice and allow the juice to soften the onion's bit by letting it soak for 10 minutes before whisking in two to three parts of oil for every one part of citrus juice.
Making a Creamy Citrus Dressing
When you're craving a creamy dressing with zesty citrus notes, try making a creamy dressing inspired by cookbook author and food journalist Mark Bittman's creamy vinaigrette. Add 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 3 to 6 tablespoons of fresh citrus juice and 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt to a blender and blend it for approximately 30 seconds to form a creamy concoction. Add one roughly chopped shallot and blend in short bursts to mince the shallot throughout the dressing. Season it to taste with salt and pepper.
Another way to infuse creaminess without any dairy is to add one-fourth of an avocado or silken tofu in place of the oil.
Although you can make a delicious citrus dressing without any extra ingredients other than oil, salt and pepper, when you want a change or added flavor, consider one of the following ways to enhance your dressing's flavor:
- Add delicate, herbaceous flavor: Finely chopped herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, parsley or thyme, infuse the dressing with delicate flavor nuances after they have been allowed to sit for several hours.
- Add assertive flavors: Combining strongly flavored ingredients into the mix can add boldness. Some examples include garlic, anchovies, mustard, chopped olives and Worcestershire sauce. Mix these ingredients into the dressing in small doses and taste as you go to avoid overpowering the citrus.
- Swap oils for nuanced flavor: While extra virgin olive oil adds a delicate, almost fruity flavor to your dressing, using a more neutral oil such as canola lets the flavors of the citrus and other ingredients shine through. Likewise, a touch of nut oil such as hazelnut, walnut or sesame, creates a deep, complex nutty flavor.