We eat a lot of salads around here. Green, pasta, vegetable and fruit salads are generally easy to prepare, will feed a large crowd and in many cases, they're the perfect multi-purpose compliment to a simple main course. In my book, a pasta based main dish is never complete without a fresh green salad to help balance out the rich flavors of a spicy marinara or creamy alfredo or carbonara.
So, why buy bottled salad dressings when they're so easy (and economical) to make? Don't get me wrong. It's not like I don't ever buy the prepared dressings at the grocery stores, but when I'm having a gathering of friends or family where a salad is on the menu, I always make two or three of my homemade dressings.
Basic Vinaigrette (this is about as simple as it gets. The most important thing to remember is to always use a 3 to 1 oil to vinegar ratio)
3/4 C Light Olive or Vegetable Oil
1/4 C Vinegar (cider, red wine, white wine or a white balsamic vinegar are fine)
1 Tbls Dijon Mustard
1 Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt
1/2 Tsp Black Pepper
Pinch of Sugar (optional)
Whisk or blend (in a processor or blender) the vinegar, mustard, salt & pepper and sugar (if you use it). Slowly drizzle in the oil as you continue to whisk or blend.
Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
Using the basic recipe, cut the dijon in half, replace the standard vinegar with a good balsamic and add 1 to 2 Tbls of your favorite honey. Trust me... You'll be amazed by what the honey does to this dressing.
Classic Caesar Dressing
Use the same amounts of oil and vinegar.
Eliminate the mustard.
Add 1 Tsp worcestershire sauce, 1 clove crushed garlic and 1 Tsp anchovy paste. (I hate anchovies - the paste is completely dissolved in the dressing and it's not fishy at all, but it really isn't the same without it)
I add freshly grated parmesan cheese and crispy fried pancetta (Italian bacon) to my romaine and croutons and toss it all at the table.
Experiment with different ingredients to see what you and your family prefer. Some combinations might not always be a huge success, but the ingredients are inexpensive and the prep time is quick, so you won't be wasting your time or your hard earned money if you need to make up a new batch.
The base ingredient in most creamy salad dressings is sour cream, mayonnaise or some type of oil. In some cases, all three of these might be in one dressing. This is another place where I would encourage you to experiment. There are a multitude of ingredients that you can add to this basic mixture and come up with a huge array of flavors and textures that are sure to make a plain green salad or a bowl of fresh fruit, a new and delicious experience. And if you must watch your sugar or fat intake, there are ways to get the same creamy rich flavors, without all of the things that you aren't supposed to eat.
Mary's Thousand Island/Russian Dressing
I basically begged for this recipe when a much loved local steakhouse was closing it's doors after 40 years. ( If it wasn't totally wrong on every level, I could probably eat this stuff with a spoon) The chef was kind enough to give it to me and I now consider it my own! LOL
1&1/2 C Mayonnaise
1/2 C Heinz Chili Sauce
3 Tbls Green Bell Pepper, finely minced
3 Tbls Yellow Onion, finely minced
Kosher or Sea Salt, to taste
(I use the food processor to get the pepper and onion really fine and keep the juices they give off to add extra flavor to the dressing)
Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl or in a processor or blender. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour. The longer you refrigerate it, the better it gets.
Mary's Garlic Blue Cheese Dressing
1 C Mayonnaise
1 C Sour Cream
8-10 oz Blue Cheese, crumbled and divided
1/4 of a Small Onion, grated with juices
1 Small Clove Garlic, crushed
1 Tsp White Wine vinegar
1 Tsp Worcesteshire Sauce
1 Tsp Brown Sugar
Kosher or Sea Salt & Black Pepper, to taste
Mix all ingredients, except 1/2 of the bleu cheese in a small bowl or in a processor or blender until smooth and creamy. You can add a bit of milk or cream to thin it out a bit, if you prefer. Add the remaining 1/2 of the bleu cheese, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
For a twist on flavor, you can change up the ingredients a bit.
Creamy Cheddar and Bacon Dressing
Eliminate the Garlic, substitute 1 C Sharp Cheddar Cheese for the Blue cheese and add 1/4 C cooked, chopped Bacon.
Savory Buttermilk Herb Dressing (Ranch)
Replace 1/2 of the Sour Cream with Buttermilk.
Eliminate the Cheese and Garlic.
Substitute your favorite Hot Sauce for the Worcestershire
Add a handful of chopped fresh or dried herbs.
(I use Chives, Thyme, Basil, Oregano and Marjoram)
Maple Buttermilk Herb Dressing
I have tons of salad dressing recipes and I'm happy to oblige any requests, but with the basics that I gave in the recipes above, you should be able to take the ball and run with it. (notice the slight super bowl reference? LOL) Enjoy!
I may be linking up with some/any of these parties: