Keeping It Quick and Simple
A few years ago, I purged my refrigerator of commercial salad dressings. Gone are those expensive, bottled varieties heavy in corn syrup, cheap vegetable oils, stabilizers, gums and even MSG. I make my own. It takes 4 minutes—max.
I set out a row of small, empty jars and began testing various recipes, that I’d come upon in old cookbooks and on the Internet. My goal was to find easy-to-make, flavorful, healthy salad dressings that stored well.
Here are three that I really liked a lot: Apple Cider Vinegar Dressing; French Vinaigrette; and Italian Dressing.
But first, let me say, that without a doubt, my favorite dressing is the Basil Vinaigrette, shown below. But I don’t always have fresh basil on hand. So I omitted it from this test since I was looking for dressings with ingredients found in most kitchens.
The Winners Are . . .
The first recipe I tried called for apple cider vinegar. Not only was it tasty, it appeared to have more health benefits than Hadacol, the popular, alcohol-based elixir of the fifties.
The Vinegar Makes a Difference
Proponents of apple cider vinegar claim that it cures hiccups, indigestion, dandruff, acne, bad breath, and leg cramps. What’s more, it soothes a sore throat, aids weight loss, fades bruises, boosts energy, controls blood sugar, and lowers cholesterol in rats.
Wow! That’s impressive. (Though, scientists caution vinegar should never be taken straight, because its high acidity can be damaging to teeth and organs.)
I don’t expect my salad dressing to be as healthy as a yogurt smoothie, but it’s nice to know this one has some redeeming features. Hmm… could be just a coincidence, but since using this vinaigrette, I haven’t had any hiccups, dandruff, or acne. : )
Apple Cider Vinegar Dressing
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 fresh lemon, juiced
- 1 Tbs. real maple syrup or honey
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- pinch salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients, mixing with whisk or blender. If needing more tartness, put in a bit more lemon. If more sweetness is desired, add more syrup or honey. (The first time I made this, I cut the recipe in half to make sure I liked it.)
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Another choice recipe was from David Lebovitz, the American chef who now lives in Paris and writes cookbooks. Like Julia Child, he always has some culinary wisdom to impart.
When making a vinaigrette, he insists upon using extra virgin olive oil and a good French Dijon mustard, such as Maille.
Minced shallots are a must, too, as is sherry wine vinegar, though he allows for red wine vinegar, if need be. Lebovitz is dismissive of balsamic vinegar, saying it’s too syrupy for salads. He is adamant about getting lettuce dry before dressing it. “How do you expect the dressing to cling to the leaves, if they’re dripping wet?” he asks.
- 1/8 tsp. sea salt
- 1 Tbs. sherry or red wine vinegar
- 1/2 small shallot, peeled and minced (about 1 Tbs.)
- 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 3 Tbs. to 4 Tbs. olive oil
In a small bowl, mix salt, vinegar, and shallot. Let stand for about 10 minutes. Mix in the Dijon mustard, then 3 Tbs. of olive oil. Stir well. Taste. If too sharp add the remaining olive oil and more salt, if necessary. Fresh herbs can also be added, if desired. Keeps about 8 hours at room temperature. If making in advance, add shallots closer to serving time. Makes 1/4 cup vinaigrette, enough for one large green salad.
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Also among my kitchen winners, was this “legendary” Italian Dressing, a family favorite of food blogger Michelle Norris at browneyedbaker. It’s so doggone good, I forced it into my healthy salad dressings category despite the calorie run up from the addition of grated cheese. Here’s my adapted version.
Legendary Italian Dressing
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3 1/2 Tbs. red wine or sherry wine vinegar
- 2 Tbs. Romano or Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder (or minced garlic clove)
Place all ingredients in a jar, shaking for about 10 seconds to combine. Drizzle over salad. Store any extra in refrig for up to 2 weeks. Remove and let stand near stove top to warm up before shaking and serving. (I’m thinking that Asiago cheese would work in this recipe as well, but have not tried it yet.)