Kick the Bottle

Salads are a great way to help you reach your daily fruit and veggie requirements. Add some fruit (a pear), stinky (or not) cheese, some toasted (or raw) nuts and/or some protein and you've got a quick and healthy meal.

But choose the wrong bottled salad dressing, and that so-called healthy meal is now drowning in fat and unmentionables.

Honestly, I can't remember the last time we bought salad dressing. I mean, have you ever looked at what's in it? And what isn't?

Water is generally the first ingredient. Water. Really?

Then there's soybean oil. Not even olive oil.

But there is Xanthan gum. High fructose corn syrup. Caramel coloring. Are you kidding? And, of course, there's preservatives. Lots of things I can hardly pronounce, much less want to eat.

A 12 oz. bottle of this crud costs $4-$8. And to think that this is the good stuff.

Well, I say we all need to try and kick the bottle. The salad dressing bottle, of course. No one needs the bottle when you can whip up a tasty dressing at home. One that's fresh, fast and economical.

I prepare a basic vinaigrette that calls for approximately 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar and/or lemon, some dijon mustard and a little salt and pepper to taste. But using this as a base, the variations are virtually endless.

Add a dollop of mayo and you've got a creamy dressing.

Add red wine vinegar instead of white wine vinegar and the dressing is going to be much tangier, which pairs well with Italian food.

Use only lemon for the acid and you've created a citronette.

Puree basil with the dressing and...voila...a basil vinaigrette.

Add a bit of honey and you'll have a slightly sweet dressing.

Add chopped garlic or even get the idea.

So, here's something for you to build upon. I'd love to know what you think and welcome comments on what you did to make it your own!

Buen provecho!

Basic Vinaigrette
The Cowgirl Gourmet

Makes about 1/3 cup

Print Recipe

2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice (I generally use a combination of vinegar and lemon juice)
Pinch of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/4 cup olive oil, preferrably extra virgin

In a bowl, whisk together the acid (vinegar and/or lemon), mustard and salt and pepper. Let this sit for a minute so the salt dissolves thoroughly.

Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly, until it is emulsified. You'll know it's emulsified when the oil is completely combined with the vinegar.

Taste to be sure the flavor is to your liking. Perhaps you'll need a bit more olive oil or another squeeze of lemon. Or another pinch of salt and a grind of pepper.

Spoon dressing over salad, toss until leaves are coated and enjoy! I sometimes like to drizzle a little more dressing over the top of the salad for extra flavor and visual effects, as well as a sprinkle of coarse salt for texture and a grind or two of pepper.

Refrigerate whatever you have left and just add to it when you need more salad dressing.

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