Thursday, January 24, 2013

Salad dressing (is awesome)

I know it's probably strange to see a post about salad dressing, right after a post about decadent brownies (and before a post about chocolate truffles...), but a good vinaigrette can make a salad extraordinary. Making your own dressing is easier to make than you think, and costs less than buying one overpriced bottle, filled with preservatives (even the organic ones), and a tall list of sometimes questionable ingredients. Your own dressing has three to four ingredients, max. As the great food writer Mark Bittman says, even bad salad dressing is good, so imagine what a great salad dressing would taste like.
A common dressing is one part acid to three parts oil. If you follow this formula, you can experiment with different combinations using this ratio. I personally prefer a more tangy vinaigrette, and prefer one part acid to two parts oil. This vinaigrette is perfect for salads, but you can drizzle it over grilled chicken, fish, or even steamed greens.
Vinegars- balsamic vinegar (make sure caramel is not added for color/flavor- lies!), apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar (there are also tons of flavored vinegars that are delicious) 
Citrus- wonderful in salads, especially lemon. They have a lower acidity than vinegar, so if you want a milder dressing they would be a good pick. Lemons are most common, but you can also use limes, tangerines, oranges, and even grapefruit juice.
-chopped shallots, red or white onions, scallions, (one tablespoon)
- a small bit of minced garlic (or put in a smashed clove and pick it out of the dressing before pouring on)
- a pinch of dried or fresh chopped herbs (tarragon, chives, whatever you have on hand)
- Mustard. I love dijon mustard, but you could try any favorite you have, or soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce. However that last one is pronounced :P. 
Oils:  "bottle of the good stuff". Good quality extra virgin olive oil will shine in a salad. You could also opt to use a more neutral oil and pair it with stronger ingredients (like ginger and soy sauce), or use walnut oil to make a smashing walnut vinaigrette. 
from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything
Classic viniagrette 
3 Tbl Red wine or balsamic vinegar
salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 Cup extra virgin olive oil

Dress it:
Dissolve the salt into the vinegar, add pepper. Slowly pour in the extra virgin olive oil, whisking with a fork to blend. Et voilĂ ! 
* If you decide to add in other ingredients, add them to the vinegar first. It will be much easier to whisk in the oil. Alternatively, you could put everything into a closed container and shake it all up vigorously! 

Dijon vinaigrette (personal favorite)
3 Tbl red wine or balsamic vinegar
salt and fresh ground pepper
1 tbl dijon mustard
1/2 Cup extra virgin olive oil 

Nut oil vinaigrette
3 tbl sherry vinegar
salt and fresh pepper
1 large shallot chopped
1/2 cup walnut, hazelnut, or other nut oil


And now I'd like to start a sentence with the word "and", as well as leave you with a terrible joke from an Italian that I know: 

What kind of olives do you use to make virgin olive oil? 
      ...ugly olives. 

What kind of olives do you use to make extra virgin olive oil?

     ... extra ugly olives. 

I'm sorry. 

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