Ever wonder why there are so many 8-syllable chemical names in commercial salad dressings? Jeez, it’s just oil and vinegar! Well, think again. The chemicals are there so the oil will stay liquid in the frig, so the product will stay evenly smooth-textured, so they never-ever spoil, etc. Why do we want to eat this stuff? The answer is: we don’t!
Make your own salad dressing to avoid all the junk that comes with commercial salad dressings! Then keep it in the refrigerator, where it will stay fresh for a long time. Teach your teenager to be creative with salad dressings so he or she will want to eat more salads. Adding a small amount of strawberry juice, lemon, lime, peach, etc., will add sweetness to the tangy flavor of vinegars. Squeeze the fruit pieces in a fruit or garlic press to get just the juice.
We prefer to make a small jar of this dressing and keep it in the frig. When it’s needed, it comes out and sits by the stove (if the stove is on) for a couple of minutes so the olive oil can return to a liquid state. Or we run a little hot water over the bottom of the glass jar, which also melts the olive oil just enough to shake it up thoroughly.
We toss the whole salad well, rather than plunking the bottle on the table and expecting the kids to pour just a touch on their salad. It never works, so toss the salad in advance and save yourself the grief of watching someone dump one third of the bottle on a small salad. Only prepare enough lettuce/spinach/etc. to eat at one sitting.
Simple (yet satisfying ) Salad Dressing
(Enough for many salads!)
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon or other flavorful mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Herbs and spices (add some but not all): fresh, finely chopped garlic or garlic powder, dill, oregano, thyme, cumin, etc.
Shake it all up well, then shake some more. Taste this and if it seems too sour, add some more olive oil and salt. Shake again.
Put about 1-2 tablespoons on a salad and toss very well. Tossing well makes better use of the dressing, so you can use less (less fat for you!).
For vinegar, use what you prefer. Balsamic vinegar is richly flavored with a “grapey” taste and heavier. Asian rice vinegars are lighter and very flavorful. Wine vinegars and “flavored vinegars” are somewhere in between. By “flavored” we mean garlic vinegar, tarragon vinegar, etc., not flavored by a chemical factory in New Jersey!
Make this dressing in the amounts of each ingredient that suit you and your family.