If people knew how easy and delicious homemade salad dressings can be, store-bought dressing sales would plummet. You, too, can make your own salad dressings without having a culinary school degree or cooking experience. There are some dressings that take less than 5 minutes to make and some that take a bit longer. Most are simple and worth the time after you get the hang of it.
Simple is Best
The easiest of the salad dressings are the simple oil-and-vinegar types. The secret is to use good-tasting vinegar, not the industrial-strength cleaning vinegar most shoppers buy. Some of the best are: Bragg’s apple cider vinegar; flavored vinegar, like champagne, red wine, or herb-infused; specialty vinegar from any number of oil-and-vinegar stores popping up across North America.
Just mixing a great-tasting vinegar with olive oil, avocado oil, or walnut oil makes a delicious and healthy alternative to store-bought dressings. When you make your own dressings, gone are the chemical additives and preservatives sometimes found in store-bought dressings. And it’s pretty cool to show off to friends and family how easy these are to make.
Let’s take the flavor profile a bit farther and add garden-fresh herbs to the oil-and-vinegar base. The French consider tarragon the “King of Herbs” and use it often in salad dressings. Add a teaspoon or two to your oil and vinegar and the aroma builds quickly.
Go a step beyond and put a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and now you have a flavor explosion to rock your taste buds. Poured over a mixed green, romaine, or even a kale salad, this dressing is a winner.
Consider creamy dressing for a tasty alternative to oil-and-vinegar-based types if you don’t mind the extra calories. Take some mayonnaise, buttermilk, roasted garlic cloves, and chopped parsley to make a savory dressing tasting way better than store-bought ranch-style.
This type takes a little longer, but is worth it. If you follow the directions for my garlic-infused olive oil, you will have perfect garlic cloves for use in this dressing just hanging out in your fridge.
So give it a whirl and see if you agree with me. There’s no dressing like homemade!
Oil and Vinegar with Fresh Tarragon Recipe
• 4 oz. corn oil, avocado oil or olive oil
• 2 oz. apple cider vinegar, or champagne vinegar
• 1 tsp fresh tarragon chopped fine
• 1 tsp chopped fresh chives, optional
• 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard, optional
Mix all ingredients and serve over your favorite green salad. Try my pan-toasted spicy croutons for a kick.
Homemade Ranch Dressing with Roasted Garlic Recipe
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• 1 cup buttermilk, more or less depending on how thick you want the dressing
• 4-6 cloves minced roasted garlic, about 1-2 tablespoons
• 1/4 cup finely minced parsley
In a mixing bowl mix all ingredients with a wire whip. Thin as needed with additional buttermilk if desired. This can be used right away or refrigerate for an hour before using for best results. Makes about 2 cups
Note: Make it thicker if you want to use it as a dip for carrot sticks, celery, and other vegetables. Don’t be afraid of adding more garlic if, after mixing and tasting, it tastes too weak. Only use fresh garlic if you are going to use all the dressing within 24 hours. Otherwise it will become too strong in raw garlic flavor.
Kurt Jacobson has been a chef for 40 years and, after being schooled in the U.S. Coast Guard, he trained in many restaurants under both kind and maniac chefs. Kurt is starting his fourth year of container and raised-bed organic gardening and is volunteering at Wilbur’s Farm in Kingsville, Maryland, to learn real organic gardening. Find him online at Fast and Furious Cook and Taste of Travel 2, and read all of Kurt's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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