For most of us, when we want to eat healthier, automatically add large salads as an easy way to include a variety of vegetables in our diet. This is an admirable task, especially when one goes beyond including salad basics, however it doesn’t address the problem of store-bought salad dressings. When using these, it is impossible to control the quality of the oils used, the amount of sugar or salt added, or whether any additional additives are included. Reduced fat or fat free salad dressings aren’t necessarily better for you either. In order to remove the fat and keep the flavor, sugar and salt are increased as well as ingredients to keep the dressing creamy.
Store bought salad dressings certainly require zero work, but homemade salad dressing isn’t difficult and only require a couple minutes to throw together. Many salad dressings can be made from pantry staples and only from a few ingredients. One thing that I enjoy about store bought dressings is how creamy they can be and that is easily remedied when an emulsifier is added to help bind the oil and water together. For emulsifiers, mustard, egg, yogurt, or sour cream are all options depend on the dressing you are making.
When making your own salad dressings, use high quality ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil, free range eggs, high quality cheese. My mom preferred to avoid refined sugar when possible, instead using honey or maple syrup. She was adamant about avoiding hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils such as soy, corn, cottonseed, or canola.
The possibilities are endless when making your own dressings! Off the top of my head, a sesame ginger may be one I will make in the near future. Find your favorite and make it at home, or use one of ours:
This is one that I make most frequently. I don’t generally use measurements but instead go for flavor and consistency. Whisk all the ingredients together and adjust for flavor.
Optional ingredients that I add from time to time:
Fresh crushed garlic
This was one of my mom’s favorite salad dressings. It is amazing for the skin because of the egg yolk and anchovy.
1-4 anchovy fillets (or anchovy paste)
1/4 – 1/2 lemon, juiced
1-2 tsp unpasteurized vinegar of your choice
1 Tbs EVOO
1/2 – 1 tsp flaxseed oil or 1/4 – 1/2 tsp Artic cod liver oil (my mom preferred the Nordic Naturals brand)
1 egg yolk
1 clove crushed fresh garlic
Pepper and salt to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Blend ingredients together and use immediately.
Honey lemon cilantro
This one is a family favorite from the defunct India Joze restaurant in Santa Cruz owned by restaurateur Jozeph Schultz. Not only did we spend many a dinner here growing up but my brother worked there for several years (and went on to follow Joz to subsequent businesses) and we have incorporated it into our regular rotation.
1 bunch cilantro stems
Juice of 5 or 6 lemons
2 Tbs honey
1/2 cup peanut oil
Salt and white pepper to taste
Blend all the ingredients together and use. This isn’t a dressing that will keep, it is best when it is used immediately because the cilantro will go bad in the lemon juice. Freezing the lemon juice (or using frozen concentrate) is one way to extend the life of the cilantro. I’ve even added ginger to give it a different flavor. Unless you have gum Arabic powder on hand, this isn’t a dressing to try and thicken up.
Papaya seed dressing
1 Tbs Fresh papaya seeds
Vinegar (red wine or cider)
¼ cup honey
1 tsp – 1 Tbs mustard depending on taste
Blend all ingredients together and serve. The papaya seeds have a light peppery taste that enlivens a salad dressing and is nicely balanced by the sweetness in the recipe.