The secret to a salad that is more than an afterthought.

I am sometimes disappointed with my homemade salad dressings – too oily, too salty, too blah. Bottled dressings can have corn syrup, MSG, gums and cheap vegetable oils. I have looked for the best advice on how to make a great dressing which I can leave sealed in the fridge – ready for action. Here is what I have found.

The first advice is to season the salad after you add the dressing – preferably adding a salt with some texture like Maldon. For a hint of garlic, peel a clove and rub it on the inside of the salad bowl before adding the lettuce.

Like an easy salad? You can toss the lettuce lightly with good olive oil, then squeeze a little lemon or drizzle some balsamic vinegar over it. Now add some crunchy salt and some pepper. Fresh herbs are a bonus if you have them.

I found that chefs have a trick to get their vinaigrettes to stay thick and creamy. They add an emulsifier to the oil and vinegar. Egg yolk, mayonnaise and mustard are all emulsifiers. The egg yolk keeps the dressing emulsified longest, but not everyone is willing to consume raw egg yolk – especially if a guest is pregnant, and egg yolks add their own flavor to the dressing. Mayonnaise is the second longest holding emulsifier while dressings with mustard alone separate quickly.

The basic vinaigrette recipe is three parts oil to one-part acid (lemon or vinegar). It tastes a little acidic before you put it on the salad, but it will be just right with the lettuce. If you keep the vinaigrette in the fridge, the olive oil can congeal. Let it rest at room temperature for half an hour to liquify it.

Here are some vinaigrette recipes….

Mustard-Shallot Vinaigrette   From Julia Moskin, New York Times

Ingredients

1 shallot, minced

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 heaping teaspoons Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

1+ cup extra-virgin olive oil – to taste

Preparation

  1. Combine shallot, vinegar and mustard in a salad dressing shaker and mix well. Add salt and pepper and shake again.
  2. Add olive oil 1/3 cup at a time. Shake well after each addition. Taste and add more oil to taste if it is too tart.
  3. Can be refrigerated for up to three weeks – but it will be gone before that!

Once you have a basic vinaigrette, you can add anchovy paste, lemon zest and garlic to make it Caesar. Add Feta cheese, lemon and oregano to make Greek dressing. Add crème fraiche and chives for creamy French dressing.

Make-Ahead Vinaigrette From Cook’s Illustrated.

1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½teaspoon Salt
¼ cup wine vinegar
½cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup vegetable oil

Regular or light mayonnaise can be used in this recipe. Do not use blackstrap molasses. You can substitute toasted hazelnut or walnut oil for the extra-virgin olive oil.

  1. Combine mayonnaise, molasses, mustard, and salt in 2-cup jar with tight-fitting lid. Stir with fork until mixture is milky in appearance and no lumps of mayonnaise or molasses remain. Add vinegar, seal jar, and shake until smooth, about 10 seconds.
  2. Add ¼ cup olive oil, seal jar, and shake vigorously until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds. Repeat, adding remaining ¼ cup olive oil and vegetable oil in 2 additions, shaking vigorously until thoroughly combined after each addition. (After third addition, vinaigrette should be glossy and lightly thickened, with no pools of oil on its surface.) Refrigerate for up to 1 week. Shake briefly before using. From Cook’s Illustrated.

Good ingredients are especially important in salads since they add a lot of the flavor.

Azeite Olive oil Salad Dressing

My mother discovered this Azeite Esplendido Gold Award Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It is delicious! 16.9 oz. $25.00.

Calivirgin, Lusty Lemon Olive Oil, Award-Winning, Organically Grown. Fresh, unfiltered, premium olive oil with no additives or preservatives. Oil is processed by crushing fresh Lemons with fresh olives creates superior taste compared to “infused” oils. Trans fat free, Gluten Free, Non-GMO, All Natural, Sustainably Produced, Cold Processed, COOC company. 8.45 oz. for $21.95.

Blood Orange Olive Oil. $18.99

Basil Olive Oil. $18.99

Fool Proof salad dressings vinegar

Credit to my mom again. Try this award winning B.R. Cohn, Pear Chardonnay Vinegar. 6.8 Ounce. $13.99

Bertolli Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is recommended by Cook’s Illustrated. 8.5 Oz (Pack of 2). $15.72.

Foolproof Salad Dressings

Laurent du Clos Red Wine Vinegar is imported from France. Three 16.9 oz. bottles for $17.47.

Apple Cider Vinegar Salad Dressing

Spectrum, Filtered Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, 16 oz. $14.28.

Fool proof salad dressing salt

Maldon Sea Salt Flakes, 8.5 oz. Box. $4.95

Maille Dijon Originale Traditional Dijon Mustard — 7.5 oz. (pack of 2). $9.16

I love this Pomegranate Molasses and I use it as a glaze on chicken and meat. It is delicious in salad dressing as well. Al Wadi Pomegranate Molasses adds a bright, fruity flavor to salad dressings. 14 oz. $10.34

Cook’s Illustrated recommends Plantation Barbados Unsulphured Molasses.

This first-boil molasses rated sweetest in the plain tasting. Tasters picked up notes of “brown sugar,” “honey,” and “plum.” They also dubbed this molasses “lighter,” with a “politely abrupt finish” that “doesn’t hit me like a punch in the face.” Cook’s Illustrated

You can find it in grocery stores. The Barbados description in the name signifies a lighter, milder, ‘first boil molasses’. This is what you want in salad dressing, so avoid the stronger, bitter, blackstrap molasses.

If you do not have easy access to fresh herbs, you will find these Dorot frozen herbs, ginger and garlic in most grocery stores. 1 cube = 1 TBS. They are surprisingly good!

More salad ideas from ASE…

Stacked Salads

Summer Salads

Header image photo credit: https://www.123rf.com