Dress Up

Dressing Your Salad?

Rule number 1: Never overdress it! Too much dressing overwhelms the flavor and results in limp greens and mushy veggies. Less is more; add a bit at a time, tasting as you go.

Rule number 2: Use a vinaigrette that compliments the components of the salad. Flavors like honey and mustard go well with salads that contain meat or chicken, while herbs like basil and dill wake up green vegetables.

Since there are so many salad dressings on grocery shelves today, it’s tempting to buy something ready-made. But bottled dressings are often full of salt and additives, making your own is the way to go.

Classic vinaigrette is typically three to four parts oil, usually olive oil and one part acid, often wine vinegar, mixed together vigorously to form an emulsion. Seasonings include salt, pepper, mustard and garlic. You might like to use any of the following acidic ingredients: rice vinegar, white wine vinegar, fruit vinegars, or lemon, lime or orange juice.You can experiment by beginning with two parts oil to one part vinegar or citrus juice.

Mustard is also a common add-in with the vinegar and helps to keep the emulsion stable for a bit longer.

The standard procedure is to whisk the vinegar with the salt and seasonings. Then add the oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly until dressing is translucent. The oil and vinegar can be combined with a blender, food processor, whisk, or shaken in a jar.

It really doesn’t matter how you choose to combine the oil and vinegar as long as you get an emulsion where the vinegar becomes suspended in the oil. An emulsion is a mixture of two substances that don’t mix. Because of the vigorous mixing or shaking, the oil and vinegar remain mixed for long enough to dress the salad.

Vinaigrettes are called unstable emulsions because they will eventually separate, the oil traveling upward and the vinegar and whatever else you have added settling on the bottom. Obviously, this is easily fixed by simply shaking the liquids together again.

When dressing your salad, use approximately one tablespoon of vinaigrette per two cups of salad. Dress, don’t drown, your salad, to keep the calories lower and the vegetables crisp.

Turn your basic vinaigrette into avocado dressing by combining half an avocado with a cup of vinaigrette in a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until smooth.

Classic Vinaigrette

1/4 cup Dijon or yellow mustard

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, stir together the mustard, vinegar, and pepper. Whisking constantly, drizzle in both oils and keep whisking until thoroughly combined and emulsified. This salad dressing can be made a day in advance, but bring to room temperature and whisk once more before using.

Once you’ve mastered the basic, adding ingredients to compliment the salad is easy. Here are some suggestions.

Add 1 clove crushed garlic and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning to this dressing for a delicious garlicy dressing that’s perfect for pasta salad.

Add 2 tablespoons beef-fry when you serve a grilled chicken salad.

You can also add 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese for a salad served at a dairy meal.

For a creamy vinaigrette, add 2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise to the mixture when emulsifying.

Honey Shallot Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons coarse or Dijon mustard

1 small shallot, diced
2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, mustard, shallot, and honey. Whisking constantly, drizzle in oil and keep whisking until thoroughly combined. Serve with your favorite leafy green salad. This vinaigrette is also excellent poured over salmon filets and baked.