Types of salad dressing has been one of the things I enjoy most, for many reasons. As we get older, that is playing a larger part in keeping us healthy. Making something “from scratch” gives me more control over the ingredients and helps to keep the fat, cholesterol and sodium down to manageable levels. One of my newest recipes is a salad and salad dressing that both my husband and I love.
One thing I learned a long time ago was that in some instances, quality pays off. This is true about the salad dressing ingredients I’ll be telling you about. High-quality ingredients bring along a much better tasting salad.
When making salads and salad dressings, the first thing to look at is the ingredients. As with most foods, quality is going to have a big impact on how things turn out. Some selections may seem pricey, but they are well worth the money spent.
Vinegar: There are several vinegars used in making salad dressings. White, red and rice wine vinegars have an important place on your shelf. You can also make flavored vinegars by adding herbs to them and allowing them to steep together. One of my garlic.
Balsamic Vinegar: There’s a bit of the Scottish part of my heritage that makes it hard to spend more money than I have to for a product. You should have seen me standing and looking at the different brands of balsamic vinegar. The prices started at about $7 and went up to $16. The problem for me was that I’d already tried the $7 versions and they weren’t that great. It took about fifteen minutes to convince myself to put it in my cart.
Balsamic vinegar is another must. Here is where price is going to play a big role in the end product. Most inexpensive balsamic vinegar is not aged, or at least not for long. An eight to ten-year vinegar aged in oak is far worth its purchase price, even if it does give you sticker shock. The first time I purchased it, I must have stayed rooted to the spot trying to convince myself I wanted to spend $16 on vinegar…I’m glad I did. I’m glad I did.
The difference types of salad dressing comes because of the aging process. Like a good wine, balsamic vinegar gets better with age, especially if five to ten years of the process is in an oak barrel. While I haven’t yet had a balsamic vinegar that I’d put on ice cream (some claim you can), the aged product beats all others hands down.
With an aged balsamic vinegar, you won’t need a lot. Most of the time, I use only half a teaspoon when making enough to serve four people.
Oils: A good quality olive oil is a must. Grapeseed oil is also good, and you can purchase flavored oils. I usually make mine the same way I make my flavored vinegars.
Spices: Herbs and spices can add a great deal to any dressing, but you’ll want to choose them well. Fresh is best, where possible. If the spice you’re interested is hard in nature, go ahead and purchase the whole spice, as they will retain the flavor longer. You can use a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle to grind them up.
Olive Oil: High-quality olive oil is another necessity for a good balsamic vinaigrette. It will make up the bulk of the dressing, so get the best you can find. There are sometimes stores that will allow you to taste both the oil and the vinegar before you purchase it. If there’s one in your area, I recommend highly that you go there.
Mustard: I keep three or four different types of mustard in the fridge, in part because I like making my own dressings. Dijon is a must. We also like Jack Daniel’s (no alcohol involved), hot and spicy and the usual yellow stuff. The latter is more for hot dogs than a salad application.
Dijon Mustard: I’ve tried to use other mustard, but the best I’ve come across is Dijon. Here, you can buy the store brand if you happen to like the flavor. However, you may want to experiment with different brands to see if there is one you personally like over the other ppt.
Mayo: If you have time and the right equipment, you may want to make it yourself. If you do so, choose your oil wisely. For a salad dressing, a good quality olive oil or grapeseed oil is ideal. Real mayo does have a lot of fat and some cholesterol, so if you must watch those there are some decent fat free versions at the market.
Now, the salad we use this for is interesting in itself. I would never have thought these ingredients would work well together, but they do. Get a good quality lettuce. Romaine is ideal because it can stand up to the dressing. slice between a quarter and half a cup each of grape tomatoes and strawberries. Mix them together, put the dressing on and prepare to be delighted. We like more strawberry than tomato, but that too can be done according to taste.
Cheese: Soft cheeses, such as brie and cream cheese, can be added with some success to cream based dressings. Harder cheeses should be as close to a powder as possible. Be careful how much you use, as you don’t want to overwhelm the other flavors.
This recipe can be heart healthy as well as tasty. By making it yourself, you’ve gotten rid of the chemicals and salt, plus you’re adding fiber and other nutrients to your dinner for diabetics.
The type of dressing you want to make will determine how you mix it together. If it’s mayo based, a whisk will work well, and you probably won’t have to shake it quite as much for later purposes. On the other hand, an oil based dressing will need to be shaken well before each use.
When setting up an oil based types of salad dressing the first time, you’re going to emulsify it. This can be done in a blender, food processor or by hand with a whisk. For the most part, I like the latter as I don’t want to chop up the spices more than I already have.
When it comes to salad dressings, the last question is when to add the dressing. This is usually decided by taste preferences. Balsamic vinaigrette could wilt some of the lettuce, and could be a little too strong if put on much before time to eat it. Mayo based dressings will mean the dressed salad will have to remain in the fridge until serving time.
With these clues, you can make some wonderful, healthy salads. Salute!