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Homemade Salad Dressing: Ditch the Bottles Forever

April 8, 2014 | By | 4 Replies More

homemade salad dressing

Perfect spring salad


I have a list of foods that I never, ever buy prepared from the store. The long list includes things like hot chocolate mix, pancake mix, mayonnaise and many, many more. But, topping the list is salad dressing. I have shunned the store-bought stuff for years, and you should too.

Even the most basic commercial vinaigrette can contain caramel coloring, other food dyes, preservatives, and tons of added salt. In fact, the labels sometimes can’t tell you with any certainty what kind of oils were used. Is it canola, soybean, vegetable or olive oil? Who cares. I don’t want it and, more importantly, I don’t need it because I’ve discovered that great homemade salad dressing can be made from scratch lickety-split and with only a few basic ingredients.

Commercial salad dressings can have a very strong flavor and unappealing thick consistency that quickly overpowers a salad. They are just perfect for a bland, nutritionally-deficient bowl of iceberg lettuce topped with pre-shredded carrots from a bag and watery, out-of-season supermarket tomatoes. Since there’s no flavor in the salad itself, you almost need to coat every bite with salty dressing as an apology.

But, what if you had a bowl of locally-grown (maybe even as local as your own yard), vibrant mixed greens, each leaf with its own unique color and flavor? Lettuce and many other leafy greens grow best in the spring and fall. Hot weather makes delicate greens bolt, or go to seed, which renders leaves bitter and unappealing. My favorite cool season salads contain mixed lettuces, spinach, shredded kale, spicy arugula, and mixed chopped fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro and chervil. I top the greens with thin slices of mild spring radishes and salad turnips. With flavorful greens, a good dressing is just…well, gravy.

homemade salad dressingI have a Salad Spinner, and it’s become one of my most frequently used kitchen gadgets. During salad season, I keep big reusable mesh bags filled with pre-washed and mixed greens. Then, I make a batch of the simplest homemade salad dressing combining two of my favorite flavors – garlic and dijon mustard – for salads on demand. By the time lettuces are bolting in the garden and the greens that were once piled high on tables at the farmers markets have been replaced with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, I’ve had enough until the fall.

Homemade Salad Dressing

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

1 tsp. whole grain dijon mustard

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

homemade salad dressing

I love watermelon radishes!

Start by whisking together the garlic, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. While continuing to whisk, very slowly drizzle in the oil. The mixture should emulsify as the oil becomes incorporated. Decant into a jar and store in the refrigerator for several weeks. This dressing is potent and a little goes a long way. Toss your salad with a small amount of dressing just before serving and serve additional dressing on the side.

I like a ratio of 3 Tbsp. vinegar to 1/2 cup oil. Feel free to experiment with variations like these:

Substitute balsamic vinegar for a touch of sweetness

Get decadent with champagne vinegar and truffled olive oil

And, if you’re in the mood for Caesar salad, go here to find out how to make the best homemade Caesar dressing!





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Category: Food, General, Tips & Tricks

Comments (4)

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  1. Emma says:

    I have been cutting out so much of the pre packages stuff knowing that they put so many bad things into them that we would never think of putting in our homemade stuff. I even make all my own soaps, and cosmetics. This year we are growing all heirloom in the garden and all organic.

    • Brande says:

      Yes, processed food is truly frightening. I’d love to get into soap making too. Hope you have a wonderful harvest this year!

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