How to Make Quick, Easy and Appetizing Salad Dressings
How to Make Simple Salad Dressings
A salad dressing is the perfect way to take your salad to the next level of yummy (and possibly through the roof!). It doesn’t matter if you’re having a salad for one or aiming to serve up an impressive side dish at a dinner party. With a salad dressing, you can add an enviable sweet, spicy, flavorful zing to scrumptious salads simply by following a few basic steps.
Once you’ve got these basics down, you can easily play with the ingredients to create something different, wonderfully appetizing and totally pleasing every time!
Salad Dressing – The Basics
The simple vinaigrette is by far the easiest of salad dressings to make. All you need are two ingredients – oil and vinegar. Proportions traditionally used for a vinaigrette are three parts oil to one part vinegar. That’s a very flexible guide, however, and your final proportions will depend on your taste, the type of salad you are dressing, the oil and vinegar used, as well as on the other ingredients in your vinaigrette.
The Oil and Vinegar
Oil – You have a pretty wide choice here and can decide to go with olive oil, grapeseed oil, canola oil, corn oil or any other neutral vegetable oil. Of course, you can select an oil with a stronger flavor such as extra virgin olive oil, which has a range of tastes for you to explore. Nut oils (roasted for extra flavor) are also bold contenders. Good examples are almond oil, peanut oil and walnut oil.
Vinegar – Apple cider vinegar works very well and sweetly tart balsamic vinegar is another very popular choice. Wine vinegars are also commonly used, so feel free to try red, white or rice wine vinegar. You may also wish to try any type of fruit vinegar you might have at hand.
If you are not a fan of vinegar or would just like to try your salad dressing without vinegar then simply substitute another acidic liquid. Just be reminded that, technically, without the vinegar it will no longer be vinaigrette! Citrus juices, especially lemon juice, work well as vinegar replacements. Wines are also good alternatives and using your favorite sherry or champagne is a great idea.
Other Vinaigrette Ingredients
Salt and pepper – These are added to enhance the taste of the dressing as well as the flavors in the salad itself. Some persons leave them out altogether which is quite okay, especially if components of your salad have already been seasoned, are salty or are spicy.
Herbs, spices and flavorings –While the list is practically endless, some of the more common add-ins in this category are: basil, chives, cilantro, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, mint, oregano, parsley, red pepper flakes, rosemary, shallots, smoked or sweet paprika, and thyme. Just as with the salt and pepper, add these to suit your own taste or to complement the tastes in the salad.
Dried versions of herbs tend to be stronger so recommendations of the amount to use will usually be less for the dried (about a half a teaspoon) and more of the fresh (about a tablespoon, chopped) to each tablespoon of vinegar in your vinaigrette. Go lighter on the spices, using only a quarter to a half teaspoon of these.
Sweetener – Sweeteners do double duty in your vinaigrette. On the one hand, they temper the taste of the vinegar making the finished dressing less acidic and so more palatable to some persons. By lessening the acidity, they also lessen the amount of oil you use. This means the vinaigrette will have a lower fat content and be a healthier choice for persons mindful of their fat consumption.
Among the sweeteners to use are white and brown sugar (brown gives more flavor), maple syrup, honey and molasses. You won’t need to add much – a good starting amount is half a teaspoon of sweetener per tablespoon of vinegar. Give it a stir and add a little more if needed.
Mustard – Change the consistency of your vinaigrette by whisking in some mustard (Dijon and grainy mustard both work quite well). The mustard turns the vinaigrette into a creamy and smooth emulsion while adding new elements to its flavor profile. At first, add just a half of a teaspoon of mustard for every tablespoon of vinegar, then take it from there – adding more if you feel you need to.
Putting It All Together
Here are 5 salad dressing ideas to get you started. Remember that personal tastes vary so experiment with ingredients and proportions. If you hit upon a combination you really like, you could write it down or you may prefer to play it by ear (or rather taste buds) each time.
- Lemon Garlic Dressing – Mediterranean
Crush one chopped garlic clove in salt. This helps to ensure the garlic is fine enough to be distributed evenly in the finished dressing. Stir in some fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Try it on a fresh garden salad, bread or noodles.
- Red-Wine Vinaigrette
Whisk together some red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, sugar, salt and black pepper. Slowly add the oil as you continue to whisk and allow the mixture to thicken. Try it on a bean salad, some spinach or tomato slices.
- Creamy Parmesan Dressing
Here is a super easy version of the classic Caesar salad dressing. Use a whisk to combine mayonnaise, grated parmesan cheese, fresh lemon juice, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauce. Season with a little salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Try it on a Caesar salad or use it as your new go-to dipping sauce.
- Zesty Lemon Shallot Dressing
Combine lemon juice, a minced clove of garlic, a minced shallot, some lemon zest, Dijon mustard, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Slowly add in some olive oil while you continue to whisk or alternatively while you combine the ingredients in a blender. Try it on fish dishes, salad greens and roasted vegetables.
- Japanese Restaurant Style Carrot Ginger Salad Dressing
This dressing has a total of 11 ingredients. Don’t be fazed by that, however, as all you have to do is place everything in a blender and blend at high speed until smooth. Those ingredients are carrots, white onion, chopped garlic, white miso paste, raw honey, toasted sesame oil, olive oil, water salt and freshly ground black pepper. Try it on fish, steamed vegetables, roasted chicken or a green salad.
Just to give you a bit more (tasty) inspiration, check out this awesome video of 5 delicious and easy salad dressings you can try.
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- Darren Clunie