Garlic vinaigrette is the dressing I make most often. The quantities that follow are only an approximate guide because garlics, vinegars, and oils vary so much in strength and intensity. The first step in making vinaigrette is to macerate garlic in vinegar and salt. The vinegar softens the raw taste of the garlic, and the salt tames the sharp edge of the vinegar. Sometimes I like to mix different kinds of vinegar; a few drops of balsamic vinegar can temper a wine vinegar that’s too strong. Taste for balance and adjust by adding more salt or vinegar; it should be neither too salty nor too acidic. The mixture should taste delicious by itself.
To dress a salad, put several generous handfuls of washed and dried lettuce in a large bowl. Toss with about three quarters of the vinaigrette, and taste. The lettuce should be lightly coated but not overdressed; add more dressing as needed.
Tips: Use a finely diced shallot instead of, or in addition to, the garlic paste. A squeeze of lemon juice added to the dressed salad at the last moment can add a brightness that brings up all the flavors.