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.