I sometimes overlook the simple things as I strive for the next “unique” recipe to share with you. Of course, no recipe is really unique or truly new – we’re all working within the same framework of taste, texture and smell to create the food that feeds our families (and our blogs). Recipes overlap, we make food that others have shared on their blogs, tweaking a technique or substituting ingredients to suit our own purpose – replication abounds. That’s one of the things I like best about cooking – I can take your idea and put my own spin on it to create something that shares the same spirit, adding a personal twist to take the dish in a new direction.
This completely non-unique recipe is one that’s served in our house at least once a week, with variations on the theme. Green salad is the most basic dish, and yet I’d argue that so many people are doing it wrong. When Mark and I started dating 15 years ago (Yeah, time sure does fly) he would eat salad, but never with dressing. This peculiarity was shared amongst his family, though there were bottled dressings on the table. I didn’t quite understand it and my family certainly joked about this habit frequently. I understand his disdain for bottled dressings now. That bottled stuff – full of odd things like high-fructose corn syrup, carageenan, and Maude knows what else…it’s not food. Salad dressing is a simple ratio of fat and acid, with perhaps a few extra flavors thrown in for flourish. It’s simple stuff, and you can whip up a basic vinaigrette in one minute – no, really!
Here’s what you do: you store your oil and vinegars (yes, I have about 6 different kinds of each) in a cabinet next to the stove, which is right next to the fridge so you can grab some mustard. Get out a small bowl, add your oil, vinegar (1:1 ratio) a squirt of your favorite dijon or whole grain mustard, pinch of salt, maybe a dribble of honey or maple syrup – whisk with a fork. Boom – you have vinaigrette! You can do this, right?
There is absolutely no need for anything that comes in a bottle, or to even mix up a huge batch of dressing that you’ll forget about in the fridge. Make it fresh every time, mixing up the flavors to suit your mood and the meal – have fun with it. My running favorite these days is to use some of the beautiful garlic oil from the mojo de ajo as the base for the dressing – add red wine vinegar, dijon, a dribble of maple syrup, pinch of salt and lots of pepper…and you have a crazy delicious dressing. So delicious that my formerly ascetic salad-eater spouse wolfs down a plate of the green stuff (with dressing) and then laments when the salad is gone.
When you feel comfortable making a basic vinaigrette, take it to the next level. Use lemon, lime or tangerine juice in place of the vinegar. Make a warm vinaigrette (like this one) using reserved bacon fat. Add some spices – thyme or tarragon are favorites. Spice it up with a dollop of smoky chipotle puree. You can even make your own ranch dressing. Mix it up and see what you like!
What’s your favorite way to dress a salad? Share your leaves of wisdom in the comments below…
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk with a fork. Taste, and adjust as needed – add a bit more oil if it’s too tart, a pinch more salt if necessary. Pour over your greens and toss with tongs to lightly coat. Serve.
- Getting fancy: Now think about your salad ingredients – add some chopped veggies (whatever you like). How about some toasted nuts – sunflower seeds are a favorite in our house. You like cheese? How about some crumbled feta or blue cheese, or a few curls of parmesan. Make it a meal, and add some leftover roast chicken or steak.
Vinaigrette: 93 cal per serving, 90 cal from fat, 10g fat, 300mg sodium, 5mg potasssium