With the holiday eating season upon us, I though I would throw in a little healthy blog in here to counter balance the shear amount of tasty treats I'm going to be eating in the next few weeks! So, I decided upon salad dressing. Why salad dressing? Well, I think that it is the easiest way to make or break a salad. Nothing turns me off of a salad more (aside from wilty lettuce) than gross, thick fatty salad dressing. I've been through my fair share of store-bought dressing that has tons of MSG and preservatives, and all sorts of ingredients that have more than 15 letters in them.
I had always wanted to make my own dressing, but I had always relied on the special bottles that had all the measurements on the side, built-in-mixer-things and "stay fresh" lids. I always ended up making like 5 times as much as I needed and most of it would go bad.
What really amazed me was how a little Grey Poupon jar helped it all change. All you need to make great salad dressing at home is a small (8 oz or so) jar. It's the perfect size to make dressing in-I was always making what seemed like a gallon of it. I actually use an old mustard jar that is square, it helps me out with the "measuring". The best part about these jars is I always seem to have one on hand, they're free, clean up nicely in the dishwasher and if you break it, well, it's replaceable!
So, after all this talk of salad dressing, I'm not even going to give you a recipe. What my whole goal is for this blog is to give you a start on how to make your own dressings, with only a few little ratios to remember, some hints, and let you go to it! I should admit here, that I figured a lot of this stuff out with the help of Jamie Oliver and his "Cook with Jamie" cookbook. But I've found that nearly every recipe I've come across, has a similar foundation for building dressings.
- 3:1. By that I mean your ratio of Oil to Vinegar (or another acid). It doesn't matter what oil you use, or what vinegar or acid you use. You could use olive oil and red wine vinegar like I did here or even Balsamic or white wine vinegar. Or skip vinegar all together and use lemon juice. Go Asian style and use canola oil with a little sesame oil (it's a little stronger flavor, so you need to cut the sesame oil with something neutral like canola) and rice vinegar.
- Emulsify. Sounds complicated but isn't. A little Dijon mustard goes a long way in preventing the dressing from separating. I just use a little scoop (like for the above amounts, 1/4-1/2 of a dessert spoon). For a creamier dressing add sour cream or yogurt.
- A little sweet. Now, don't go adding scoops and scoops of sugar! I add about the same amount of honey as I do the mustard. It rounds out the flavors a bit and takes a little of the bite out of the acid.
- Season. All you need now is a little salt and pepper. I couldn't even begin to tell you how much to add. For the amount above, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. If you have a favorite spice blend, add a few pinches here, too. Fresh herbs, garlic, anything goes...
- Shakey shakey. No fancy blenders or food processors here, shake away (just be sure your lid is on securely).
- Taste for seasoning. Take a leaf of lettuce (or your finger) and test it. Does it need more salt/pepper? Is the vinegar too much/not enough? Just add whatever you think it is lacking and go from there.
- Dress the salad. Sounds simple and obvious, but this is the most important. Have you ever had a salad that was just swimming in dressing or had been sitting in the dressing for an hour or so? Yuck. The key in this is not to drown the salad. It's best to dress the entire salad at once in a large serving bowl. Just a light coating is all you need. Pour a little over, toss gently with your fingers (or salad hands, which are my favorite). And serve.