Salad Dressing: Recipe-Free Guide To Improving In The Kitchen
Salad dressings are very easy to make. This guide will show you how to do it without using a recipe. You’ll be amazed at how many different dressings you can make with what’s already in your kitchen.
Vinegar and Oil Dressings
These dressings are the simplest (and often the tastiest) of all. With the profusion of oils and vinegars available at most supermarkets, you can craft a “gourmet” dressing with no problem. The most common oil to use for salads is, of course, olive oil but walnut, almond, and other “designer” flavors all have their advantages. For the vinegar, you can choose anything from apple cider, to balsamic, to fruit or spice-flavored, to plain white, depending on your tastes. There’s no such thing as the “right” proportion of vinegar to oil. Personally, I use 3:1 vinegar and oil, but if you like the taste of oil more than vinegar, you can vary the amounts at will. If you’ve chosen a nut oil and a fruit-flavored vinegar, I suggest lightly spicing with with aromatic herbs such as marjoram and tarragon. A little honey can be wonderful in these mixes as well. If you’ve chosen a classic olive oil and balsamic vinegar combination, then crushed garlic, shallots, minced onions, salt, pepper and oregano or basil go brilliantly together. When I need some creative encouragement I simply go to my favorite ethnic cookbook and look at the oils, vinegars and spices that are used in the main course recipes and combine them into a salad dressing. If you stick to mixing complementary tastes, you can’t go wrong. Shake up all the ingredients and pour over your salad.
If you are on a low-fat diet and want to avoid oils, fresh fruit can replace oil in your dressing. Begin with white vinegar, apple cider vinegar or a fruit vinegar and add the fresh fruit of your choice. I use a blender to combine the ingredients. Again, you can be adventurous, but also use your common sense. Apple cider vinegar goes perfectly with mangoes, a small amount of honey, and some raisins. White vinegar, pears and honey mix very well. Oranges and red wine vinegar go great. And balsamic vinegar and fresh strawberries can’t be beat! You’d be surprised at how good any of these tastes with garlic, onions, salt, and pepper.
Replace the vinegar with mustard and you’re on your way. Chinese mustard is a great match for sesame oil, honey and pineapple in a dressing. Green peppercorn mustard goes beautifully with olive oil and garlic. French’s mustard or Grey Poupon can be blended with mango and hot pepper. Again, you can turn to your cookbooks and look for main course recipes that use mustard and just combine the same ingredients in your blender.
Making salad dressing is an art rather than a science. The best way to do it is to know your own tastes and preferences and use them as the basis for experimentation.
In addition to being a scholar, Shawn Scott, Ph.D., is a culinary enthusiast and has worked as a professional caterer and chef. Now retired from teaching, Scott has decided to share the collected wit and wisdom of almost forty years of cooking and food lore.