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my favorite everyday salad dressing recipes

February 15, 2011

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If you’re just starting to tinker with the idea of eating more healthfully, but don’t know where to begin, may I nudge you toward making your own salad dressings?  Why?  First of all, salad dressings or vinaigrettes are something you probably use regularly.  Second, they are simple to make.  And last but not least, I have never found a bottled salad dressing that uses the kind of high-quality oils and ingredients I prefer to use.  In fact, most bottled dressings not only contain refined oils, but also sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, stabilizers and lots of other mysterious things I can’t even pronounce — never a good sign.

Truthfully, when I was growing up, we ate loads of fresh salads and we never made vinaigrettes.  It was my job to dress the salad and all I did was drizzle the olive oil over the greens about three or four times around the salad bowl and the vinegar over once.  I would sprinkle it with a little salt and voila!  Sometimes I still do that if I’m in a rush and I don’t have dressing already made in the fridge.  But more often than not, in the beginning of the week I will combine a few simple ingredients in a clean jar with a lid (love reusing nut butter jars for this) and shake, shake, shake!

I have lots of dressings I use for different salads, but there are two that are my standbys for a bowl of simple mixed greens.  Both have a base of unrefined extra-virgin olive oil which is very rich in oleic acid, a very stable monounsaturated fatty acid, as well as Vitamin E and loads of antioxidants.  All bets are off when you use refined olive oil where all the nutrients have been stripped away and you’re basically left with a bottle of free radicals.  The olive oil I buy is in a dark glass bottle and after the word “Ingredients” it says in the tiniest print that I can barely read since I turned 40, “unrefined extra-virgin organic olive oil.”    Forget low-fat or non-fat salad dressings.  Most of those contain MSG or MSG-derivatives with tricky names like “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” or “autolyzed yeast extract.”  We need fat on our salad to help us assimilate all the fabulous fat-soluble vitamins in the vegetables!  What a waste to eat Vitamins A, D, E and K without the presence of fat to help our intestines absorb those nutrients.

Lemon juice is super alkalizing to our bodies and raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar is so enzyme-rich — both are my favorite acids for dressings.  I personally love the lemon juice dressing, but I came up with the apple cider vinegar/brown rice vinegar dressing when I was at my mother-in-law’s house and she asked me to whip up a salad dressing that she would like.  I was thrilled to make her something delicious so that she would stop using a packaged brand that rhymes with Shmood Shmeasons.  Alas a convert!  It has become a very popular dressing in my house and hers.

The basic rule of thumb with a vinaigrette is to mix 1 part acid (lemon juice, vinegar) with 3-4 parts oil.  Adjust the ratios to suit your taste and build from there with salt and pepper, garlic or shallots, mustard or fresh herbs, if you have them.  Once you get into the habit of making salad dressings regularly, you won’t even have to measure your ingredients anymore.  So long Shmishbone!

everyday salad dressing #1 (with lemon juice)

1 medium garlic clove, minced or 1 small shallot, finely diced

3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

a few turns of freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 1/2 – 3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil

Either whisk together in a small bowl or place all the ingredients in a glass jar with a lid and shake until emulsified.

everyday salad dressing #2 (with cider or red wine vinegar)

1 small shallot, minced (about 2 teaspoons)

3/4 -1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons raw honey or 100% pure maple syrup

2 Tablespoons unpasteurized apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar

2 Tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

3/4 cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil

Either whisk together in a small bowl or place all the ingredients in a glass jar with a lid and shake until emulsified.

Both dressings can be made ahead and kept in a glass jar in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.  Because olive oil solidifies when chilled, you will need to remove it from the refrigerator well before you want to use it in order for it to become pourable.  Or you can leave the dressing at room temperature in a cool, dark place for a few days.

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25 Responses to “my favorite everyday salad dressing recipes”

  1. […] perfect salad for entertaining and I have even eaten a version of this for a lunch at home with my Everyday Salad Dressing #2. You don’t need the farro, but it does make the salad heartier which is helpful if you […]

  2. […] figure out if my team has a wining chance.  No big deal. I’ll just ponder my repertoire of chili recipes and decide what other deliciousness I can whip together for our little group.  I asked Daughter #1 […]

  3. [...] Dressing: (really similar to Everyday Salad Dressing #2) [...]

  4. Rebecca Foster says:

    I had a jar of “salad dressing #2″ in the fridge, and it made for a great, spur of the moment dinner. I came home after a long day of being out and told my husband I wasn’t cooking…often means a frozen pizza or a bowl of cereal. When I remembered I had a salad dressing I told him I was going to make a salad, and he said he would have one too. So, with fresh greens, an avocado, some cherry tomatoes, and the leftover chicken from our fajita night (your recipe) a couple of nights ago, I whipped up a full salad meal, and I am going to bed satisfied and proud of how we ended up eating such a better meal just because we had your dressing on hand and ready to go. THANK YOU!

    • Pamela says:

      Rebecca, you just made my day. Your story of resourcefulness and confidence in the kitchen is exactly why I do this. Thank you!

  5. Marty says:

    Pamla: I love the simplicity of your dressings! I used to watch my grandfather as a child mix dressing over a large oblong wooden bowl filled with mixed greens, thinly sliced red onions and grape tomatoes. He first drizzled, like you, olive oil over the bowl of salad greens, then he’d fill a large soup spoon with dry mustard, pinch of salt and pepper, splash of either lemon juice or wine vinegar, mixing that up with the tip of dinner knife, then pouring it over the salad and mixing it gently.

    I’ve been making dressings similarly since. I sometimes add some gluten-free shoyu or Bragg’s or use freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice instead of the lemon juice or vinegar.

    I also love using nut butters, almond or tahini as a base first, then adding lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, liquid stevia or maple syrup or agave syrup, pinch of dried ginger, Bragg’s and a pinch of salt, and for a slight kick, some flaked red pepper. The original recipe I found added oil, but I add water to desired consistency instead because I figure there’s enough oil in the nut butter we don’t need the additional.

    I’m trying to teach my husband how to make his own dressings, instead of resorting to buying them off the shelf, esp when I’m out of town!

    • Pamela says:

      Thank you for sharing that memory of your grandfather — beautiful. I think salads and their dressings are best simple as long as you start with lovely, fresh ingredients. Funny about your husband! I guess you just have to make him a jar before you leave to go out of town.

  6. Amanda says:

    Just finishing my late breakfast of arugula with Dressing #1 and a poached egg on toast – how can something this easy taste like it came from a 5-star restaurant?? And I made it? Impossible! This dressing will definitely help me battle my Frosted Mini Wheat addiction!

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I made dressing #2 for a party and everyone loved it – all the children (3 year olds included) were asking for seconds! I had to make 2 huge bowls of salad and there was none left over. I made a huge jar of dressing, hoping to have some left over for the week, but used it all because everyone loved it!

  8. Nicole says:

    This is exactly what i need to make every week. Store bought dressings are just not any good and every salad i make with Pam’s dressing i love. This one is perfect to keep everyday
    thank you

  9. Doreena says:

    Tried dressing #2 and it is awesome. YUMMY! Made a whole bunch of it for the week!

  10. Doreena says:

    I never really liked any of the store bought salad dressings. I tried the #1 dressing and loved it! It tasted so light and fresh. I look forward to trying the #2 dressing this week!
    Thanks Pamela!

    • Mohamed says:

      Excellent blog! I really love how it’s uncpmolicated on my eyes and also the details is well written. I am wondering how I might be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your rss feed which really should do the trick! Have a nice day!

  11. Andrea says:

    I think good salad dressing makes all the difference, and Pamela’s dressings are the bomb! They taste so fresh and good, I actually look forward to eating a salad the way I used to look forward to eating dessert!
    FYI….I l find that minced the shallot incorporates better into the dressing.

  12. Cristina says:

    Made salad dressing #1 in a jar yesterday. Outstanding! I will be eating salad even more than I already do thanks to Pamela. I Love it so much I am going to try it on steamed cabbage tonight.
    Thank you!

  13. Mary says:

    How easy and delicious! I going to take your advice and make enough for a few days at the beginning of the week. Thanks

  14. Jill says:

    Where do you find that olive oil? Is it very expensive?

    • Pamela says:

      The olive oil I use is by Napa Valley Naturals and I buy it at Whole Foods. It is about $13 for a 750 ml bottle. I like it because it is unrefined, cold-pressed and organic. It also comes in a dark glass bottle to protect the oil from being oxidized by light. I store my olive oil in my pantry away from heat. Spectrum also sells an unrefined olive oil for maybe one or two dollars more. You have to read the fine print to make sure it’s unrefined.

  15. sonia says:

    Hello, I’m the mother-in-law that loves dressing #2. This is the yummiest dressing ever!
    Whenever we have salad, I have to make triple the amount of lettuce because we can’t stop eating it. Besides the great taste, the ingredients are all natural. It works best like pamela does to toss the lettuce and dressing with her hands. I thought this was going too far, but you use less dressing and you get even flavor in every bite.
    Needless to say, no more seasonings from a package for me, thanks to pam’s dressing!

    • Kymberly says:

      After reading Sonia’s review Joshua and I are going to make your dressing this weekend. Can’t wait to try it. From what i remember everything i have tasted that you make is delish.

  16. Teddi Gilderman says:

    yum, yum making #1 tonight! Thanks Pamela

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