Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Salad-dressing snob.

A nice and simple four-ingredient 1000 Island.
I think of myself as a fairly low-key gal. I'm not uptight about much and I tend to go with the flow with most things. However, I have been known to be an outspoken advocate about a handful of things - and homemade salad dressing is one of them.

Ah, salad. Such a versatile dish. The options are endless and the ingredients can vary. In my opinion, one of the most important things going on a salad is the dressing. Hands down. You hear it all the time how a dressing can make or break your salad in the calorie and fat content world. But I don't care about that. (Well, maybe I do a little - I do have to set SOME limits to keep this figure of mine - cough, cough, wink, wink.) What I care about is flavor, fresh ingredients and my favorite of all - the word homemade. If you were to open my refrigerator, you won't find a store-bought dressing. I am a snob; an aficionado of salad dressings - a salad-dressing extraordinaire. And I'm not afraid to show it - or flaunt it.

I honestly don't remember a time growing up when we ate salad dressing out of a bottle. Maybe I suppressed the memory because of my dislike for it, I can't say for sure. But it is a fond memory having my grandma's renowned Blue Cheese dressing and a "house" dressing my parents used in their restaurant with a base of sour cream and garlic. As I grew older and my palette became more sophisticated, I started messing around with my own homemade dressings: vinaigrette's, flavorful ranches and Caesar dressings.

There are many reasons I became a snob. First and foremost, store-bought dressings don't taste good. Subtle is key and here's a brief list on why I don't think store dressings cut the cake:
  • Too much vinegar
  • Too much sugar
  • Too much oil
  • Too many ingredients I can't pronounce
The key with homemade dressing is to tweak to your liking. For instance, my fav dressing perfect for a spinach salad calls for more sugar than I like, so I cut it from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup and the flavor is right on. I encourage a dressing a week which, in turn, increases your salad and vegetable intake. Because, seriously, who really likes to eat boring vegetables without anything fun to dip it in. (Take that raw food eaters!)

Now for the good part: recipes from my own kitchen that frequent our weekly rotation.

(Perfect for just about any salad - or vegetable dip.)

3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup mayo
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 small onion, grated
1 tsp fresh chives
1/2 tsp dill
1 tsp Italian parsley
Salt to taste

Stir in first three ingredients until smooth; add herbs and salt. Refrigerate.

(This is a staple and a great base for any dressing. Change up the vinegars for extra flare.)

Olive oil
Dijon mustard
Red wine vinegar
Minced garlic

We've all heard of Warm Bacon Dressing, but this is a sweet dressing perfect for your fresh spinach salad this summer.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar (this is where you can add more if you like - or less)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Dry toast sesame seeds until brown. Cool. Combine all ingredients and shake in a jar. Add to spinach, sliced mushrooms, red onion, hard-boiled egg and butter-toasted almonds. Seriously, delicious.

(Thanks to my friend's mom who owns Mimi's Cafe in Halfway, Oregon)

2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup white vinegar
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dill weed
1 1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of pepper
1 cup tofu (Silken)
2 cup feta
3 cups buttermilk

Combine ingredients into a food processor except buttermilk. Blend for one minute. Running processor slowly, pour in buttermilk. As soon as dressing thickens, turn off and refrigerate.

(Serve with grilled kale or grilled romaine - or just toss with romaine for a traditional Caesar salad. Don't forget homemade croutons: bread cubes tossed with olive oil, herbs and S&P and bake at 350 for 10 minutes!)

6 tbsp each mayo and olive oil
1/4 cup each Dijon mustard and grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp Worcestershire
3 Garlic cloves, minced
4-6 anchovy fillets, minced

Whisk together ingredients and add 1/4 cup water.

1000 Island

Equal parts mayo and ketchup
Dill pickles, minced
Dash Worcestershire

Combine and refrigerate.

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