by Jeanie Rose, a.k.a. “Mom”
Would you like to be known for your salad making? You could make salads that are so irresistible, no one in your family will refuse them. The secret is in the dressing. There are other factors that go into a great salad, but the key is the dressing.
You’ve probably already figured out that we’re not talking about the supermarket dressings. There are a few good ones out there … very few!
Now I can hear your response, “I don’t have time for that!” Try one of two of the ideas to follow and you will see how quickly these things go together once you have the ingredients in stock.
Make one or two dressings a week in bulk enough to last 2-3 weeks. This way you end up with a nice supply of different dressings. Besides salads, you will find yourself putting dressing on your steamed vegetables and baked potatoes. You will fall in love with the fresh, vibrant flavors of your homemade dressings!
Give it a few months. Then try a taste of a bottled dressing. You will be shocked. You’ll wonder how those people can stay in business. They certainly won’t be getting your business after you get acclimated to fresh dressings from your own kitchen.
You may not consider yourself a cook, but you are about to experience kitchen alchemy that is simple and foolproof. Just keep reading.
Start with a Simple Vinaigrette:
1. Buy the finest, freshest olive oil you can find. Extra Virgin olive oil has a strong flavor. If your family is not used to that, you may be wise to start with a lighter olive oil to get them used to it. Store it in a cool dark place. Not over your stove! Oil is a live food and does go rancid.
2. Locate a source of flaxseed oil. This is pricey item is one to shop around. Once you purchase, keep the oil refrigerated. Take good care of this puppy because it is blessed with Omega 3 fatty acids that are generally hard to find.
Fine vinegars are the SECRET to fine salad dressings. I grew up with distilled white vinegar. I thought that’s all there was. No wonder I disliked vinegar. To this day, my brother will not eat anything with a vinegar base. This doesn’t need to be the case in your family.
White Wine Vinegar - Start out with a white wine vinegar. These vinegars have a light fragrance to them that goes with any foods and will not overpower delicate foods like chicken and white fish. Rice wine vinegar fits in this category, but has a bit of sweetness in it. You can always add a touch of sweetener to your white wine vinegar to get similar results. So if you need to budget these items, start with the white wine vinegar.
Red Wine Vinegar - The next one to add to your pantry shelf is red wine vinegar. It has color (red, of course) and a more intense flavor than the white wine vinegar. So you will use this vinegar with foods that have intense flavors of their own. This way all the intensities sing together. Most food with intense flavors also have intense colors, so the red of the vinegar will not discolor your food.
Nothing looks quite as puzzling as a piece of white turkey breast with a red wine dressing poured over it.
“What happened here? My turkey is stained!”
Most of us eat with our eyes, so this is important.
Balsamic Vinegar – The first time I tasted balsamic vinegar a friend brought it to me in a tiny bottle from Italy. I couldn’t believe the rich, robust flavor in just a few drops. The only problem was that you couldn’t get balsamic vinegar in our neck of the woods. Times have changed and you can find it in almost every large grocery store.
If your budget is limited, get a small bottle because it takes very little of this vinegar to get good results. In fact, you need to beware of too much of a good thing! With balsamic, I usually add a tablespoon or two to a regular dressing made with one of the wine vinegars. A dressing with balsamic vinegar will sing on fresh tomatoes from the garden. And if you have a garden, you probably also have basil. Mmmm good! We’ve gone through mountains of cubed tomatoes dressing in this fashion.
Put It Together
OK, you've got the stuff. Assembling the parts is simple:
1. Mix together one part olive oil and one part flax oil in a mason jar with a well-fitting lid. Storing in this way allows for convenient shaking and for maximum capacity. If you have a large family, plan on making a quart or more dressing at a time.
2. Add one part vinegar of your choice. You have enough information now to make a good decision.
3. Crush some fresh garlic. Figure one clove per ½ cup of oil. Stir it in. The amount of garlic varies greatly by personal choice. Please yourself and your family. This family consumes major amounts of garlic in dressings.
4. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
5. Shake well and pour over a salad.
6. Be impressed with yourself and your results!
Isn’t this easy? Now, suppose you want to branch out and experiment. No problem! Here are a few suggestions to get you started. This is kitchen artistry. Play to your heart’s content.
• Replace some of the white vinegar with a fresh citrus juice. Lime is wonderful. Add some lemon thyme, lemon verbena, or lemon balm. This makes a light, fruity dressing for greens that will accompany a heavy entrée.
• If you like freshly ground Romano or Parmesan cheese, add it to any vinaigrette. Or, sprinkle it over the salad after the vinaigrette has been poured.
• Basil and balsamic vinegar are two ingredients that ensure success if your salad is part of an Italian dinner.
• Mustard and dill or tarragon are good additions for a dressing over tuna or salmon.
• Add fresh mint and parsley for a Middle Eastern touch.
• Freshly chopped cilantro, tomato, and chili powder added to a light vinaigrette is superb on a avocado salad accompanying enchiladas of some Mexican entrée.
You get the point. No end to the possibilities here! Now lets take a look at another type of dressing.
Who doesn’t love Ranch? Surely, it is the most requested dressing in restaurants. Before it had a name and got bottled, I made this type of dressing for sandwiches. When Hidden Valley finally came out, my friends thought they had stolen my idea. Not so! This type of creamy dressing is part of many cultures. And it’s easy. Ready?
1. Mix together one cup of good mayonnaise and one cup of organic sour cream.
2. Add 2 tablespoons each of chopped parsley and chopped chives and 1 tablespoon of dill weed. If you don’t have fresh herbs, use the dried ones. But find an organic source because you are going to make a lot of this dressing and use a lot of herbs. These herbs, in this amount, definitely add to your nutritional intake.
3. Add salt to taste. Save the pepper for when you pour the dressing on your salad. This way you can have fresh ground pepper. It makes a difference!
4. Thin the dressing with organic milk to the desired consistency. If you want this to be a dip, add very little milk.
5. For a little variety, try adding crushed garlic or lemon juice and curry powder.
I’ve given you proportions on the Ranch dressing, because I have found that these work well for me. Change them to suit you own needs and tastes. Also, I recommend making this dressing in large amounts because you will find yourself using it on all sort of things: mixing up a tuna salad or an egg salad; topping a baked potato; dressing steamed veggies; garnish on your fine soups, etc.
So there you have it! The mystery to irresistible salads is now dispelled … at least for you. Put on your chef’s apron and have a great time.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. Consult with your physician before making any changes to your diet.