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DIY Dressings To Make Salads Sing

Ingredients, of course make the salad, but the dressing makes it sing. Best of all it can sing in different keys, depending on the choice of dressing. To be able to make your own dressing, rather than depending on commercial brands, is like arranging the song to suit your mood. Last week, while writing about different ideas for side salads, I realized that dressings would be a good topic. So here I am, as promised, with the results of my investigation of salad dressings.

Before I start, I want to talk a bit about the commercial products available. If you include the generic, ethnic, gourmet as well as the big and small brand names the number is only surpassed by the number of flavor varieties to choose from. There seems to be something for everyone, so why make your own? Well, first the commercial brands all contain artificial ingredients, preservatives, and generally a high amount of salt, sugar and fat. Making them yourself gives you control over these things. Second, commercial dressings usually are close to the flavor ceiling. They won’t accept any taste adjustments .you might want to make. Third, the cost is rising, and basic, simple dressing ingredients are found in most homes, especially those for vinaigrettes. Why pay to have several bottles open, when you can make them fresh as needed using items you keep in supply?

Please understand I’m not going DIY on salad dressings. Many can’t be easily duplicated without a specific flavoring agent. It’s senseless to buy such products and only use a fraction, just as it is to buy several ingredients in an attempt to recreate a product you like. However, for the everyday salad side, snack or light meal, making the dressing is easy, economical and fun. Most entrée salad recipes include directions for a specific dressing, Cobb and Nicoise Salads for example, not to mention all the grilled chicken ones out there, so you probably already have experience.

In most countries, the ingredients of a salad determine its dressing and a “house” salad is dressed as the chef decrees. Americans expect to be offered a selection of dressings especially for a side or light meal salad. If having this option appeals to you, make several vinaigrettes with different infusions to use alone or have ready to add other ingredients to make more complex dressings. As always, the possibilities are endless. Just use your imagination.

Following are basic vinaigrette directions and some useful variations as well as recipes for other, delicious dressings that can be easily made when wanted. Also, don’t forget that dressings can double as marinades. Simply reserve enough to dress the greens, use the rest to flavor the meat.

Basic Vinaigrette
The fundamental ratio is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil, with salt and pepper to taste. Dissolve seasonings in vinegar. If making in a jar, add the oil in 3 parts, shaking between. If using a blender or a bowl add oil in a thin stream with machine running or constantly stirring.
To Smooth: Shake in a jar with an ice cube until chilled. Discard ice.
• To Emulsify: Oil and vinegar will separate. To prevent this add a small amount of powdered mustard, paprika or finely ground nuts.
A Simple Dressing With Many Uses All recipes yield about ¾ cup
Double basic proportions of oil and vinegar*
1 small shallot or 1/3 a small onion – minced
½ garlic clove- minced
½ tsp. each salt, pepper and Dijon mustard
OPTIONAL 1-2 tsp. dried herbs of choice-for example an Italian blend
Prepare dressing as directed above.
*Infused oil and/or vinegar will affect flavor as will using different types of vinegar.
• To infuse oil or vinegar steep herb fronds, pieces of spices, like ginger, or small vegetables such as garlic cloves or peppers in the liquid until the desired flavor is achieved
• For Tomato Italian vinaigrette use red wine vinegar, substitute 2Tbs.tomato puree for the mustard and add 2 tsp. dried basil or 1 Tbs. chopped fresh
• For Balsamic vinaigrette increase the vinegar by 1 Tbs. and replace mustard with lemon
• For Citrus vinaigrette replace the vinegar with ¼ cup fresh lemon or lime juice and add 1 tsp. of the fruit’s zest.
• For Greek vinaigrette make the Citrus dressing with lemon adding ¼ cup crumbled Feta cheese and 3 Tbs. each chopped mint and kalamata olives. Shake well.
• For French dressing replace ½ the vinegar with lemon juice and add 1/8th tsp. paprika—the paprika will emulsify the dressing. Recommend smoothing with ice.
• For using up Leftovers for each Tbs. of mayonnaise or mustard left in a jar add ¼ cup EACH oil and wine vinegar, or lemon juice, ½ garlic clove-minced-and 1 tsp. dried mixed herbs, salt and pepper to taste.
• For Creamy vinaigrette: Use white wine or cider vinegar. After adding oil mix in 1-2 Tbs. chopped fresh herbs then ¼ cup heavy cream. Store chilled.
• For Low-Fat vinaigrette replace 1/3 oil with juice, broth, fruit or vegetable puree or tea which lowers the acidity of the vinegar. Reducing the oil content further thins the liquid too much, requiring the addition of gelatin or cornstarch to make the dressing coat.
Basic Low-Fat Vinaigrette
¼ cup EACH vinegar and broth or juice
2 Tbs. oil
½ tsp. EACH honey, salt and pepper
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Combine ingredients in a jar and shake well until blended
Other Easy DIY Dressings All yield about ¾ cup

French Roquefort Dressing
¼ cup crumbled Roquefort, Blu, Gorgonzola or Stilton cheese
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice—1 Tbs. in reserved depending on taste preference.
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Mash, whip, shake and/or blend the ingredients, until the cheese is dissolved in the liquid. Store chilled and shake well before using. This is best over a softer lettuce such as Bibb, or red or green leaf.

Asian Peanut Dressing
3 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 tsp. EACH soy sauce and chopped ginger or 1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
½ tsp. chopped garlic or ¼ tsp. garlic powder
Pinch EACH ground cumin and coriander
¼ small onion chopped
1 Tbs. EACH creamy peanut butter and oil
¼ tsp. hot pepper sauce –optional
Place all ingredients in a jar and shake until well combined

Yogurt-Fruit Dressing Makes3/4cup
½ cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup blended fresh fruit of choice
1 Tbs. lemon or lime juice-depending on fruit used
1 tsp. EACH honey and Dijon mustard
Puree all ingredients until smooth. Store chilled

Raspberry-Wine Dressing Makes 1 ¼ cups
1 cup fresh or dry pack frozen raspberries
1/3 cup Merlot
1/3 cup oil
1 sliced shallot
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. honey
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs. sour cream—optional
Puree all ingredients until smooth. Store chilled.

Creamy Dressings Each yields about 11/2 cups

Basic Dressing Recipe
To make these dressings low-fat, use low-fat ingredients. To lower fat content further replace1/2 mayonnaise with ½ avocado pureed.
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
2Tbs. white wine vinegar
1tsp. EACH Worcestershire Sauce and Dijon mustard
¼ tsp. cracked pepper
Whisk or blend all ingredients. Store chilled.
• For Ranch Dressing substitute cider vinegar. Add ½ cup shredded carrots,1Tbs. chopped parsley,1/2 tsp. EACH sugar, celery flakes and celery seeds and onion powder.
• For Green Goddess Add ½ clove garlic crushed and 3 Tbs. EACH chopped scallions and parsley
• For Russian add 1/3 cup chili sauce, 2 Tbs. EACH chopped pimento OR pepper, and celery and another tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
• For Creamy Italian add 1 tsp. roasted garlic, 2 Tbs. minced onion,1/2 tsp. EACH dried oregano and basil, or ¼ cup of EACH chopped fresh. Shake or whisk well.

These are just the basic dressing recipes, but there are enough variations included to give you a springboard to finding ways to individualizing them or moving on to create your own. Have fun and Happy Salad Days ahead. Any questions—just contact me and please join us next week.

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