After reading (Homemade) Dressing: Why do it? you're convinced that making your own dressing is at least worth a shot. Here's the how-to that will help you to take this theory and put it into practice. Where to start? Unless you're already well-acquainted with different oils and vinegars, it is helpful to start with a recipe. Check out our Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette and the Domestic Diva's Buttermilk Basil Dressing, and then check out the considerations for combining below.
If you're feeling more adventurous, read Charmian Christie's 5 Basic Elements of Salad Dressing. Christie has a great food blog called Christie's Corner that's worth a spin around. Below I've adapted Christie's 5 Elements for Everyday Chef.
- Oil: Use a good quality olive oil or neutral-tasting alternative like canola, grapeseed or safflower. Combined with a bit of sesame oil or nut oil, you’ve got an dressing you won’t find in the store. How much oil do you need? Traditionally, the oil to acid ratio is 3 to 1, but I prefer an equal 1 to 1 mix.
- Acid: The go-to vinegars are balsamic, red wine and rice vinegar. Want a change of pace? Try champagne or sherry vinegar. You can also substitute some or all of the vinegar with freshly squeezed lemon juice. A splash of lime juice goes well with citrus-based salads.
- Sweet: To take the edge off the acid, add a touch of sweetness. Ordinary white sugar will do, but you’ll add more flavour with honey, maple syrup, apple juice, or even jam.
- Salt: A generous pinch or two is usually enough. If you're desired dressing is Asian-inspired, opt for Tamari (a slightly more refined soy sauce) instead of salt. The Domestic Diva recommends kosher salt and sea salt.
- Aromatics: Minced fresh herbs, shallots, citrus rind, black pepper and/or garlic aren’t mandatory but add flavor. Common salad herbs include basil, thyme, tarragon, cilantro, mint, parsley and dill. Mix and match as you please.
How to combine it all?
You have several great options for combining your dressing accommodates any kitchen set-up or budget. The following list details options from simple to complex:
- Super simple (for small quantities): put all ingredients in a mug, and agitate in a circular motion with a fork.
- Still pretty simple: put all ingredients in a glass jar with a lid (like a canning jar), tighten the lid, and shake like the dickens--fun job for kiddos.
- Simple: put all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk vigorously.
- Not-so-simple, but still fun (good for larger quantities): Pull out your food processor or (the Diva's favorite) Magic Bullet, add solid ingredients first (like garlic or ginger) and pulse until everything is minced. Then all other non-oil ingredients (vinegar, maple syrup, tamari, etc), and then, while the processor is still on, add the oil slowly. Voila. You'll have a tasty and emulsified dressing.
If you're making a big batch, leftovers can be kept in a sealed jar in your refrigerator for up to five days.