Recipes, Salads, Salads & Sides

The Importance of Being Well Dressed

You’d never go to a 4 star restaurant in jeans, right? So why would you make a beautiful salad of local greens or heirloom tomatoes, or cucumbers and destroy it with bottled salad dressing filled with high fructose corn syrup? Sorry, I’m not here to judge, but I don’t think people realize how easy it is to make your own dressing, especially a vinaigrette. I don’t think I’ve bought a pre-made store dressing in years! Some basic tricks to keep up your sleeve.

Basic Vinaigrette

The general ratio is 2:1 oil to vinegar. Feel free to use any oil. I generally use high quality olive oil. In fact, I generally keep a separate olive oil just for salads and bread dipping, as opposed to the more standard I use for cooking. But feel free to go creative–a Mexican inspired salad with avocado oil, a cranberry goat cheese salad with walnut oil–go crazy! Same with the vinegar. Balsamic, apple cider, good old white vinegar, even fresh lemon juice! Here’s what you’ll need for a basic salad (about 3 c greens and some veggies)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • salt to taste

I generally add the olive oil first and toss to coat. Then add vinegar, toss again. Finally sprinkle some salt to taste and toss one final time. Feel free to adjust ratio to your desired level of saltiness or acidity. My friend would be happy enough with straight vinegar! Also feel free to add fresh chopped or dried herbs to mix it up a bit too!

Basic Caesar Dressing

Again, super easy. You can use raw egg or mayo. I was a bit skeeved by the raw egg at first but the fact that I get pastured eggs from local farms did make it a bit easier. If you use the raw egg you’ll get more of a Caesar vinaigrette, but if you use the mayo, you’ll have more of a creamy Caesar. Choice is yours.

  • 2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 2 small minced garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 egg or 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix anchovy paste and garlic well. Add in lemon juice, egg (or mayo) and mustard. Blend well. While whisking mixture, add olive oil by pouring in a slow, steady stream so mixture emulsifies. Add Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper and mix.

Both these dressings are pretty traditional and essential to cooking. Especially with the vinaigrette, you can really transform it into anything. Try adding a bit of sugar or agave nectar to make it a bit sweet, or fruit puree when in season, or a bit of dijon mustard for more of a kick.

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