It has been years since I have bought bottled salad dressing. I occasionally will buy "Zesty Italian" because it's my husbands very favorite attribute to pasta salad. Other than that I can honestly say I haven't had a refrigerator door museum of Kraft in almost 10 years. Once I got the hang of how simple it is to make any flavor salad dressing wether it be creamy based or oil based, I never looked back. Not to say that it didn't take a lot of practice!
It all started once again at my first kitchen job. I was hired to wait tables and unbeknownst to me I was also scheduled to work a few kitchen shifts as well. This little twist of my new job would play out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. Beginning with learning all about the glory of fresh made dressings and sauces.
My prep everyday was to begin with the salad dressings. We had a warm balsamic, warm sesame ginger, Thai peanut, non-dairy caesar and a few others that I can't remember, this was ten years ago after all! Anyway, I was blown away at not only the amazing taste but the simplicity and the fact that they were basically all made with pantry items everyone has. That and a little citrus i.e. lemon, lime, orange, a little aromatic i.e. garlic, shallot, chive and you have your self the best thing any salad ever desired.
For a vinaigrette you start with a good quality olive oil. I like California olive oils for their fruitiness and availability but you can find an entire wall of them at your local market. Next you need to decide on the flavor, where is your acid coming from. Balsamic vinegar, Sherry vinegar, Rice vinegar, a fruit? The list goes on and on. Just go with what you like and what makes sense for your salad. Don't overthink this, have fun with it! They are easy to save if you make a mistake. Heavily salt and pepper and taste! Taste! Taste! Remember, this is going to season your entire salad. Want it a little creamier? Whisk in some Dijon mustard to emulsify it, and egg yolk works lovely for that too, but I get that people get freaked out by it, I know I used to be. Relax young grasshopper, stick to experimenting and one day eggs yolks will be something you will be more than willing to drizzle, whisk, include with pretty much anything.
If you are someone that prefers to cook with a recipe, I have attached a great link from Bon Appetit with a fantastic slide show of easy vinaigrettes.
A new way I have begun to make creamy dressings whilst trying to lose weight has been to use 0% Fage greek yogurt. I have been very successful in transforming it to take on any flavors I give it with the same consistency as mayo for a ton less calories and fat.
Along with being creative toward your salad dressings, same goes for the salad itself. Experiment with your produce section. I like to buy hearty veggies that will A: last long and B: are packed with nutrients. My produce list usually consists of these basics:
- swiss chard
- romaine lettuce
- variety of cabbage-savoy is my favorite
- bell peppers
- green apples
- apple cider
- white wine
- red wine
- fig balsamic
Pantry items I keep on hand to make dressings:
- Whole mustard seed
- dijon mustard
Along with garlic, shallots, chives, ginger, hot peppers dry and fresh.
You get the point there! Have fun, try new things!