“Salad freshens without enfeebling and fortifies without irritating.”
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Real Salad Dressing with Real Ingredients, All Week!
I have an internal battle with myself every single time I’m passing through the salad dressing aisle in the grocery store. Of course, I’m there with some frequency as it’s where you find lots of useful things with which to MAKE salad dressing. It is also where you will find all of the premade (and super expensive!) jarred variety. Can you feel my disdain?
It is with great restraint that I do not launch into full blow lecture mode when I see fellow shoppers tossing jars upon jars of the assorted and oftentimes questionably flavoured varieties into their carts. It is ONLY my desire to not behave imperiously and more importantly, come off as completely cracked that stops me.
There are a few different options when considering salad dressing but for the sake of simplicity, and you know how I love a little simplicity, I’m only going to tackle the vinaigrette. We can explore emulsified and dairy-based dressings at another time.The vinaigrette dressing will emulsify with the addition of mustard for example but if it’s simply oil and vinegar or lemon juice, you’ll need to shake or whisk it up before dressing your greens.
The addition of such simple ingredients as fresh herbs, garlic and lemon zest elevates a basic vinaigrette to something sublime.
Let’s get to the basics;
First things first… ratios… they matter. Typically for a basic vinaigrette you’ll use a 3:1 ratio. In other words, 3 parts oil and 1 part acid. Feel free to play with those amounts to create a balance that is appealing to your own palate.
Now let’s move on to variations and choices;
Oils: Olive, canola, vegetable, grapeseed, safflower or any combination including nut oils, pumpkin seed oil etc. Stronger flavoured oils can be cut with milder ones, for example, extra virgin olive oil might be overwhelming on a delicate salad so you can add a bit of some sort of veg oil to it to temper the flavour slightly.
Acid: Lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit juice (being aware with orange and grapefruit that they lean toward the sweeter side and this will have a decidedly different outcome on your final product), vinegar (red, white, rice, sherry, cider, white wine you get the point) balsamic (which I give its own category as it can be found in many different flavours and infusions) and finally mustard in its many delicious varieties.
Additions: Minced garlic or shallot, fresh chopped herbs, citrus zest, Worcestershire sauce, mashed anchovies or grated cheese. With each of these additions, it is important to understand how each may affect your final flavour, basil, for example, is quite sweet, cheese and anchovies tend to be salty.
I like to make a very basic one of higher volume which I can add to and change as the week progresses. So let’s say I start with a really nice extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice (‘cuz you know I’m all about the lemon juice!) a small amount of minced garlic and some S&P (we call that GLOSP around here). This is the base which I can change all week long. I have also been known to use my salad dressing as a marinade! Use your imagination and go wild!
Today I’ve given you just a few of the many possible variations available when creating a vinaigrette from scratch. It doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming, but it will always taste better, fresher and without doubt have considerably less unnatural additives. Try it one week for yourself and I believe you will be forever a scratch salad dressing maker… AND you will avoid a possible lecture from yours truly in the dressing aisle at the grocery store.
Enjoy & Namaste!