Want to save money, avoid the additives and packaging waste and get a healthier, better-tasting dressing? Make your own! Most dressings stick to a basic formula of
one part vinegar or an acid like lemon juice, and two parts oil. The rest is flavorings and seasonings.
This basic recipe for dressing will get you started:
½ cup oil
¼ cup vinegar or acid
1 tsp. to 1 tbs. of “flavoring” (see below)
Seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, fresh or dried herbs and spices
Whisk together in this order, acid and flavoring, oil, seasoning. Refrigerate any leftovers.
Recipe courtesy of The Cleaner Plate Club, by Beth Bader and Ali Benjamin, Storey Publishers.
Get an Omega-3 burst using the healthiest oils; flax seed, walnut, olive or canola. Look for infused olive oils for extra flavor.
Worried about fat? Key vitamins like A, D, E and K and micronutrients like anti-oxidants are fat-soluble. When you use fat-free dressings, your body doesn’t take in all the nutrients from that healthy salad!
Vinegars and Acids
Balsamic, red wine, white wine vinegars are standard. But also consider using acids like fresh-squeezed citrus juices; lemon, blood orange, or orange.
Flavorings are what make those exotic — and expensive — processed dressings sound so sexy. For stronger flavors like Dijon mustard, use just a teaspoon. Add a tablespoon of alliums like chives, chopped shallot, or a minced clove of garlic for savory dressing. For sweeter dressings use a tablespoon of honey or jelly, jam and preserves. Fig, blackberry, and raspberry jam work great!
Don’t forget salt and pepper. Salt brings out flavor in the salad. Pepper adds a sharp note that builds complexity, even for sweet dressings. Fresh chopped herbs, or even dried herbs, take a dressing from plain to perfect.
Two go-to combinations that work for most salads:
• Red wine vinegar, olive oil, stone ground mustard, salt and pepper. Great for salads with tomatoes and vegetables!
• Balsamic vinegar, walnut oil, strawberry jam, salt and pepper work great for kid-friendly salads with cheese and fruit toppings.
What’s your recipe for “skipping the bottle?” What kinds of salads do you serve it with? Or, tell us your favorite bottled dressing, and we can try and give you a recipe!
Beth Bader is the coauthor with Ali Benjamin of The Cleaner Plate Club. She writes for Eat Local Challenge, and is currently working with local food and food policy groups to help consumers access healthy, local foods and support small family farms in her region. Visit her at cleanerplateclub.com or expatriateskitchen.blogspot.com.