I love a good salad. I like all the colors in my bowl and flavors jumping around in my mouth. I'm really rather picky about what goes with what (definitely not tomatoes and fruit at the same time). And I love a good dressing to tie it all together. There are some really good dressings out there in your local supermarket, but if you are feeling creative why not make your own? The process is simple and there are no hard and fast rules. You might even come up with your own special "house dressing" to wow family and friends.
The rule of thumb for a vinaigrette is 3 parts fat to 1 part acid. I like a little less of an oily mouthfeel and a little bolder flavor so I usually start with that ratio and then add extra acid. I pretty much stick with extra virgin olive oil for my fat. The acid can be lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar, or a wine vinegar, or my favorite- balsamic vinegar. Once you have your fat/acid base, you get to start having fun layering in the flavor.
Here's an example. If I am using balsamic, I like to mince up a little garlic and shallot for aromatics. I add a large plop of dijon mustard for some zing and then season everything with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. If I'm using a less potent acid, I like to highlight a fresh herb - sometimes basil, sometimes thyme - and I usually leave out the garlic. See what I mean about layering?
I love toying with flavors. Feeling bold? Add mustard or horseradish. Feeling spicy? Try fresh ginger or minced chilies. Feeling sweet? Toss in a little honey or maple syrup or fruit puree. Try scallions instead of onion or soy instead of salt. Just be sure to taste, taste, taste as you go! And realize that as your vinaigrette sits percolating in your fridge, the flavors are going to get bolder.
A final note about your vinaigrette - you are not limited to using it on salad! Depending on the flavors you have put together, try using your creation to marinate meat for the grill or to toss on vegetables before roasting them.