So it's January, and many among us are trying to eat a healthier, more wholesome diet. And this usually means adding the odd salad (either as a side, or as a meal unto itself). I actually love giant salad meals, and bulk them up by adding seeds, nuts, beans, tuna, eggs, cheese, etc.
The thing that can often trip you up with salad is the dressing. So many purchased dressings are full of low-quality, filler ingredients. Now that lil Z is reading, one of the things we do together is look through nutritional labels, and even at 8, she understands that a long list of ingredients, full of things she can't pronounce, probably isn't the best choice.
Case in point, we took a look at the label on her favourite ranch dressing and sure enough, sugar figured prominently, as did all sorts of fillers and other ingredients.
When I don't have time or energy to make my own dressings, I really love the dressings from my local Farm Boy because they have very simple ingredients and taste great (the no-sodium Greek and the Mediterranean are my favourites, but they are all fabulous).
But when I have my act together, this is by far my favourite salad dressing recipe. It whisks up fabulously, stays emulsified, and best of all, it tastes amazing with fresh crisp vegetables. It doesn't take long to make and doesn't require too many ingredients. It also scales up well (if you really loved it, you could make a bigger batch and keep it in a jar in your fridge) so you could make it ahead, or make it for a crowd.
The quality of your initial ingredients does make a difference - make sure you use a vinegar and an oil that you actually really like, as those are the flavours that will come out in this dressing.
Epic Easy Homemade Balsamic Dressing
(single batch is good for a side salad for four people)
1 T balsamic vinegar
3 T extra virgin olive oil (one you really like the flavour of)
1 T dijon mustard (you can go more generous on this if you like mustard, but I find you need at least 1 T for emulsification)
option: 1 t grainy mustard/moutarde à l'ancienne
option: 1 T minced shallot
option: change up the vinegar and oil for a different flavour profile, but do be sure to keep the 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar
1. Measure the balsamic vinegar into a small bowl or cup. Add a sprinkle of sea salt (I use a salt grinder, but I'd estimate I add about 1/4 t). Give it a quick stir to dissolve the salt (it won't dissolve in oil). Add some fresh cracked black pepper. If you're adding shallot, add it now.
2. Add the oil and the mustard(s). Use a fork or small whisk to combine until it thickens and is emulsified. If you're doing a larger batch, go ahead and use a mason jar and shake it.
3. YUM. Give it a taste and see if it needs more salt or other seasoning. If it's a bit thick, you can add either some vinegar, or water to thin it out.
Once you've mastered the basic vinaigrette, feel free to experiment with flavoured oils and vinegars, but again, make sure they are flavours you like (i.e., don't use a stale or yucky-tasting oil because you won't like the result). I don't use super high-end products, but a nice fruity olive oil is totally worth it here. :)