If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to eat more salad, why not go one step further and resolve to make your own salad dressings. It doesn’t take long, the ingredients you need are probably already in your pantry, and the dressings you make from scratch will taste much better than anything you find on the shelves of you local supermarket.
A basic vinaigrette is a great starting point. From there you can add ingredients to suit your tastes or that will complement the other ingredients in your salad. Vinaigrettes are just a combination of acid, fat and flavor in a standard ratio:
-1 part acid (citrus juice, vinegar)
-3 or 4 parts fat (oil)
-flavor (salt, pepper, chopped shallot, garlic, dried or fresh chopped herbs)
If you’d like your vinaigrette to hold together (emulsify) you can add a little dijon mustard or honey. You can also play with the ratio of oil-to-acid based on your personal taste and the boldness of flavor in the acid. If you like your dressing tart, add less oil.
You can whisk together the acid and flavor ingredients in a bowl and then drizzle in the oil while whisking. However, it’s much easier to just put all of your ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously until well mixed. Added bonus: no clean up!
You can use a high-end extra virgin olive oil in your vinaigrette, but in most cases the vinegar and flavorings will overpower the oil, so a decent mid-priced extra virgin oil with a flavor profile that you like will do just fine.
To balance out the flavor of vinaigrette that seems too strong, add a few drops of water and shake or whisk until incorporated. Keep in mind that extra virgin olive oil may solidify in the refrigerator so you will need to take your vinaigrette out of the fridge an hour or so before you plan to use it and shake to reincorporate the oil.
Here’s a variation on the basic vinaigrette with an Asian twist. Fresh, crisp, raw baby bok choy is a great green for making salads and this dressing works especially well on bok choy. Teriyaki vinaigrette also makes a good marinade for tofu, chicken, fish, beef or pork
(makes 1 ¼ cups)
¼ cup Soy Sauce
2 Tblspns Rice Wine Vinegar
2 Tblspns Orange Juice
1 Tblspn Honey
1 clove Garlic—minced
2 tspns Fresh Ginger—grated (or 1 tspn dried ginger)
½ tspn Hot Sauce
2 tspns Orange or Lime Zest
¾ cup Canola Oil
• Whisk together all ingredients except oil until well combined.
• While whisking, drizzle in oil until blended.
• Alternatively, place all ingredients in a small jar and shake vigorously until combined
I’ll go beyond basic vinaigrette with a couple of blended dressings that will help shake up your winter salad repertoire in my next post.
A little leftover pork and some leftover rice in the fridge,along with a few veggies, is always a good excuse to make pork fried rice. In fact, I often cook extra rice just for that purpose. Last night, I found myself with the pork and the vegetables, but the leftover grain was farro. Farro is an old Italian grain that’s similar to wheat. However, farro cooks much more quickly than wheat berries. Just put them in a sauce pan with enough water to cover by about and inch and a half and simmer for about 15 minutes. Farro is a nice alternative to rice as a side dish and is great in soups and salads. I’ve even been known to eat cold leftover farro for breakfast with a little yogurt and some fresh berries. I think the word “toothsome” is a little overused as a food descriptor, but the term hits the mark with farro. It’s tender to the bite, but definitely holds its shape. It has a light nutty flavor with a hint of barley (but without that sliminess that comes with barley). It’s texture and flavor make it a natural for a fried rice style preparation.
4 tspns Canola Oil
1 large Egg
1 Tblspn Ginger–minced
½ medium Red Pepper—small dice
1 medium Carrot—small dice
2 cups Farro—cooked
1 cup Edamame Beans (frozen, shelled)
1 cup Pork—cooked and diced
4 each Green Onions—thinly sliced
1 Tblspn Sambal (optional)
3 Tblspns Soy Sauce
- Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large non-stick sauté pan or wok over medium-high heat.
- Scramble egg with about a teaspoon of water. When oil shimmers, add egg to pan and swirl around the pan (crepe style) until bottom is covered.
- As soon as the “crepe” is set (about 15-20 seconds), loosen with a silicone spatula and flip over to cook other side for another 15-20 seconds. Roll out onto a cutting board and chop into small pieces.
- Wipe out pan with a paper towel.
- Meanwhile, bring a quart of water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Add a generous amount of salt and the frozen edamame beans. Return a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes. Drain, run under cold water and set aside.
- Heat remaining 2 teaspoons of oil over high heat in the pan or wok until simmering. Add ginger and garlic and swirl around pan until fragrant—about 30 seconds. Add pepper and carrot and cook for a minute or two, until just beginning to soften.
- Lower heat to medium and add farro. Stir around until farro is heated through—about 3 minutes. Add edamame, pork and soy sauce. If you’d like a little heat, add the sambal or an appropriate amount of your favorite hot condiment. Stir to combine.
- Add egg and green onions. Taste and add more soy or sambal if needed.