Sometimes the perfect thing for lunch is a nice big salad, the kind with candied walnuts, a bit of cheese, perhaps a little fresh fruit, and a nice salad dressing. As part of our scratcherhood, we don’t buy salad dressings. In fact, we can’t remember the last time we bought any salad dressing at a store. Sure, it’s partly because we like to make just about everything from scratch, but the real reason is that making salad dressings is just so dog-gone easy!
We don’t really use a recipe for making salad dressings; instead, we rely on a simple rule: 1 part sweet, 1 part tart, 2 parts oil, plus a bit of salt, pepper, and mustard. Memorize that rule and you can make nearly any dressing you want in only a few minutes. Just watch.
We used the strawberry vanilla jam we made the other week, but any strawberry jam will work. That’s the 1 part sweet. For balsamic vinegar, prices and quality are all over the map. Suffice it to say that you get what you pay for. Go for a middle-of-the-road balsamic vinegar. That’s the 1 part tart. For the olive oil, extra-virgin is key, since it adds flavor. Try tasting a few oils — yes, straight — to find one you like. That’s the 2 parts oil. The mustard might seem odd to have in a salad dressing; you can use any kind you want, its main purpose is to help in the emulsification.
Procedure in detail:
Combine ingredients. We put all our ingredients into a measuring cup with a spout for easy pouring later. Now, you may read that you need a blender, food processor, or some other electric mixing device, but a small bowl and a whisk is really all you need. No special order of adding ingredients is needed, but we start with the jam and use the vinegar and oil to remove little bits that stick to the spoon. For the mustard, we just dip the whisk into the jar and pull out a dollop.
Whisk. Once you’ve assembled your salads, whisk the dressing together. In less than a minute, the oil will have emulsified into the vinegar and jam, making a smooth dressing.
Serve. Pour over your tasty salad, making sure to serve it with a bit of bread so people can sop up any dressing left in the bowl. And they will, trust us.
See, so easy and fast it makes you wonder why anyone would buy a salad dressing, when you can whip up one in the time it takes to shake and unscrew the top of a bottle. We think that’s especially true once you read the ingredient list for commercial dressings. You, of course, know why it has all those chemically-sounding ingredients. Yep, it’s that the chemicals are cheaper than real food.