I swear I’m going on the road to promote homemade/handmade salad dressing. Not a lot of hoopla, no sponsors that I can imagine, just me on my bandwagon. And this would be my plug: forgo the processed stuff and make salad dressing because it’s tasty and because it’s a small action toward sustainable living.
Annie, and Paul Newman do pretty well with their commercial dressings, but it’s possible to make a better product at home, far superior to anything processed in terms of cost, taste and waste. And it’s easy.
Whenever I find myself trying to convince anyone that such & such is easy, just give it a try, I feel like a kid again trying to convince my brother to ride down that steep gravel road with me on our bikes, really fast, it’ll be fun . . . make some salad dressing, it’s easy, you’ll save money, it’ll be fun. Maybe I’m trying too hard. You might find it satisfying and unlike the bike-riding-fast-down-a-steep-hill episode, this time I’m telling the truth, it’ll be OK.
Salad dressing’s basic structure is almost always a combination of acid in the form of vinegar or citrus along with oil. Once the basic structure is understood just looking at the names of dressings pulled out of a cookbook might be enough inspiration to make something up. Or, look at an actual recipe for the first batch and after that take off in your own direction. Here are a few of the salad dressings I found in the index of Joy of Cooking: Apricot, Blue Cheese, Creamy Caraway, Feta, French, Green Goddess, Ranch, Roasted Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomato, Tangerine Shallot, Yogurt Dill.
Our go-to salad dressing recipe
Directions: Smash the garlic, add a 3:1 ratio of olive oil & balsamic, a smidge of mustard and shake well. There’s usually a jar sitting in the cupboard and when there’s not I make more in just a couple of minutes. When we’re cooking dinner it’s often fast and furious at some point and if salad dressing has to be made at the last minute it has to be quick, which it is. I make a jarful, enough for several salads, and store it in the cupboard. Some dressings need refrigeration, some don’t.
A previous post, Everyday But Lovely Dresses for Salad, includes recipes for favorite dressings: Balsamic, Sweet & Sour, Blue Cheese and Greek Goddess.
Sweet & Sour Salad Dressing Recipe
Place all ingredients in a glass jar: a finely minced clove of garlic and/or shallot, ½ – 1 tsp. finely minced or grated ginger, ¼ cup unflavored rice vinegar, 1 T soy, 1 T honey, ½ tsp. sesame oil, a pinch of red pepper flakes or cayenne, 1 ½ – 2 T peanut oil. Shake it up and pour over a cabbage or kohlrabi slaw. This one won’t emulsify so just give it a good shake before using. Add chopped scallion, sesame seeds, and a handful of cashews before serving to make it fancy, toss in shredded chicken for a meal. It could also be a marinade.
The Creamy Cucumber Dressing Recipe below is a new one for me. It’s a light, lowfat – not usually my favorite food criterion – and refreshing dressing for summer greens or a bowl of thinly sliced fennel, oranges, avocado and red onion, which, speaking of myriad possibilities, is also delicious dressed with orange or lime juice, olive oil, salt & pepper.
Recipe for Creamy Cucumber Salad Dressing
1/2 cup cucumber, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon dill
1/2 teaspoon jalapeno pepper
1 large garlic clove
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup yogurt (or, combine yogurt & sour cream)
1 -2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Combine all of these ingredients in a blender, process for a few seconds and it’s done, enough for two or six salads, depending. Store this one in the fridge. Pile summer’s beauteous bounty on to a platter, drizzle it with your own dressing and let the hum begin as cells receive the raw plants they hunger for.
Mark Bittman demystifies infused olive oils and shows how to do it at home for a fraction of the cost.