Messing with Dressing: Simple Salad Solutions

By a show of hands how many of you regularly use store bought dressing? Ouch! That many? While many store bought dressings can taste alright, some fancy ones even pretty good, there isn’t really any sense of accomplishment when you use them. Not to mention that unless you are buying your dressing in the reefer smoking hippie organic section you are filling yourself up with a lot of garbage that isn’t good for you. There are many chemicals in them meant strictly to preserve that dressing so it can live for months and months in your fridge. We all fall victim to time constraints in our lives so we are all guilty of cutting corners sometimes. But when it comes to something as simple as salad dressing there is no excuse not to take 3 minutes and whip some up from scratch. Ya, I said it, 3 minutes. Unless you are making some kind of crazy reduction dressing then there is no way you can’t whisk a few things together in under 5 minutes.

So, today I am going to give you a few dressings I make all the time that are a piece of cake to make and make your salad an integral part of your meal and not just an afterthought side plate. Before I get to the recipes I want to relay some things that you should consider essentials in your pantry in terms of salad making.

Let’s start with oil:
Extra virgin olive oil
Sesame oil
Other oils that are great for salads but not essential to have are grapeseed oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, and flaxseed oil.

Vinegars:
Balsamic
Red Wine
White Wine
Sherry
Rice

photo courtesy of www.nuttykitchen.com

photo courtesy of http://www.nuttykitchen.com

Lemons, good quality dijon, sea salt, and pepper from a pepper mill are all what I would consider necessary ingredients to have on hand as well. Some things that are great to keep around that will make any salad sexy as hell are; nuts like sliced almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, and walnuts. Adding cheese is great too. I always have fresh parmesan at home. Sharp cheddar is awesome too as is blue cheese if you can handle that stinky feet smell and gasoline like intense taste(It isn’t for everyone. I only like it in very small amounts). Fruits can be an amazing addition to a salad that can blow people away. Apples, clementines, oranges, grapefruit, berries can all take your salad to fancy chef level status. Trust me when I say that a salad with balsamic vinegar in it and strawberries combined will make whomever you serve it to fall in love with you. Hard. Immediately. So tread lightly my friends, tread lightly. Ok I have sure said a bunch of stuff now without even getting to any dressings. Here we go!

Super Simple Balsamic Dressing:

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk with compassion and kindness until the oil and vinegar emulsify. You should see it get a little thick. KABLAMO! Salad dressing done. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
White Wine & Dijon Dressing:

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 finely minced shallot
Salt and pepper to taste

Ok this one takes a tiny bit more work than the other one but you should still get this done in under 5 minutes. First mince the shallot and then combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Whisk with quiet contemplation and hope. Done.

Asian Style Dressing:

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp finely minced ginger

Same deal here, combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk with mild amusement and a hint of regret.

Well that’s 3 dressings that can be done in no time at all. Because I care about you, yes you specifically, I am going to give you some ideas to go with these dressings too.

But before I do, how many of you use either iceberg or romaine lettuce only for salad? Alright that’s a bit better. In case you are wondering what my problem is with iceberg lettuce well I’ll tell you. It is made up of about 117% water, so like, almost all of it is water. Can anyone tell me that it really tastes like anything other than crunchy water? No, you can’t.  So don’t buy it. I have no real problem with romaine lettuce but after a while it can get kind of boring. Grocery stores carry so much more now than they did when I was a kid. You can get red or green leaf lettuce, baby spinach, arugula, mache, radicchio, endives, and watercress all at most local grocery stores. This photo here is what most people call spring mix and it usually has about 6 or 7 different type of lettuce mixed in. So the next time you’re in the mood for a salad reach for something a bit different and see what happens with one of these dressings!

Ok, so that first dressing is by far the simplest but can sexify a salad like you wouldn’t believe. Just tossing it with the spring mix works fantastically. But one salad in particular I make for guests gets rave reviews every time. As I mentioned before you can find more and more fun things at grocery stores and a few years ago at the butcher counter I found packs of sliced, smoked deer, lamb, and duck. If you have the time and inclination to smoke your own wild game then hell yes go for it and let me know what time to come over, but if you don’t then  these packs really are amazing and can make a salad THE dish of the night. I tend to stick with the deer meat most often. Here is what I do. Lay out 3 or 4 slices of the deer onto a small plate. Make the Super Simple Balsamic Dressing and toss it either with the spring mix or some arugula. Arugula works great here because it is a tart, bitter type of leaf that contrasts well with the sweeter dressing. Add the salad on top of the meat and then top with some dried cranberries and toasted almond slices or crushed pistachios. I honestly go back to this dish often when friends come over and it never fails to please.

For the second dressing I like to keep it really simple. It is great with either red or green leaf lettuce just like that. Sometimes I’ll serve it with mache lettuce and fry up some slices of pancetta until it is crispy. Then I just crumble the pancetta on top and if the mood strikes me I toast some pine nuts and throw them in.

Now the Asian style dressing has a bolder taste thanks to the ginger and sesame oil. Something to take note of is to be mindful of how much sesame oil you use. This stuff is more intense than an existential philosopher so don’t abuse it. Some people will use it on its’ own for a dressing but I find using a teaspoon of it combined with olive oil smoothens it out nicely. This one takes a bit more thought and preparation to pair with other things. I find that baby spinach with some clementines, toasted almond slices and smoked salmon is great for a light lunch. You can also add some grilled shrimp or grilled salmon on top of the spinach instead of the smoked salmon.

There you have it people. Every one of those recipes can be done in no time by anyone so there is no excuse now to buy that bottled “Italian” or “French” dressing and keeps eating the same salad over and over and over. Break out the whisk and mix it up!

Stay phat.



Categories: Recipes

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