Ever look at elite Crossfitters and think “what is it they have that I don’t?” other than years of training, sponsorships, and bodies that would make Michelangelo give up. With the seemingly endless litany mobility work, strength work, skill work, and endurance work, improving can feel at times like Sisyphus pushing his boulder up a mountain for all of eternity.
But what if there was one thing that could take you to that level? And what if I told you that thing was so simple, and so easy, that anyone could be doing it? And that it would powerfully and fundamentally alter the way you work out forever? And that it’s perfectly legal. First you’d tell me to go write cover tags for Buzzfeed or Cosmo. Bet then you’d be all over it right? Who wouldn’t?
Well, the bad news is it doesn’t exist. So keep grinding. The good news is, this is a cooking series, not a workout series, so that thing does exist in the kitchen; it is immensely powerful, endlessly complex, and extraordinarily simple. And even better, I will tell share it with you. It is one of the major things that separates everything you cook at home from the everything you ogle and drool over at restaurants.
The best part is, this thing is just two numbers. I know that as crossfitters numbers are hard (70% max calculations, rep schemes chalked on the ground, rounds counted with sticks) but stick with me here: 3:1. This is the ratio that separates good food from great food, and the one that will set you free in the kitchen.
What do these numbers mean? Vinaigrette: 3 parts fat to 1 part vinegar.
“Ok….uh…thanks, you just told me how not to buy salad dressing. Big whoop”
Take notes kids; vinaigrette goes far beyond making raw lettuce palatable. It’s a food panacea, elevating everything to heights unseen. The fat caries richness, and luxurious mouth feel, while also allowing the full flavor of spices and seasonings to shine. The vinegar (technically any acid) provides a necessary counterpoint to satisfy the palate and tie together all the different components of a meal.
Sure, knowing this ratio frees you to throw together an easy chopped salad, but it lends itself incredibly well to proteins as well. That garlicky chimmichurri on your steak? Basically a vinaigarette. This sauce is perfect for grilled chicken, roasted or poached fish. It can be applied to grains and starches *gasp* as well. Check out the NYT recipe for sweet potato and black bean salad.
Just remember 3:1. Whatever you have on hand or your palate desires. Start with a neutral oil, maybe add some warmth by switching to olive oil, or warm bacon fat. Your “vinegar” can really be any acid, switch it up to grapefruit or lime juice. Add another layer with some honey, or Dijon or molasses. Then finish it off with whatever aromatics you want: shallots, scallions, garlic, ginger, fresh herbs. It’s pretty much impossible to fuck up.
I’ve even included this handy chart to get you going:
|3 Parts||1 Part||Bonus!||Aromatics||Herbs & Spices|
|olive oil||red wine vengar||honey||shallots||mint|
|walnut oil||cider vinegar||molasses||scallions||cilantro|
|sesame oil||balsamic vinegar||maple syrup||raw garlic||oregano|
|chili oil||rice wine vinegar||dijon nustard||roasted garlic||thyme|
|tahini (ground sesame)||lemon juice||chiles||cumin|
|coconut oil||lime juice||curry|
|bacon fat||grapefruit juice||paprika|
|chicken fat (schmaltz)||za’atar|