You know I love having a stash of homemade goodies in my refrigerator, and today I have some free time so I’m making up a handful of dressings. It is such a treat to have a variety of dressings, now more than ever since it’s springtime and this year we are planting a variety of greens in our garden. I usually like to keep one creamy dressing, a few vinaigrettes, and a “specialty” dressing that I can use to spice up a dish that might be considered plain. I like to keep ingredients like that- special dressing, chutney, spice mix- for nights when we make something like grilled chicken and vegetables. It helps to really take a simple, easy dinner to the next level, and it’s usually on a day when you need something special.
What is a vinaigrette?
Vinaigrette is a mixture of three parts oil to one part vinegar. A plain vinaigrette is usually called French dressing- not to be confused with what we find on the shelf, which is a creamy pink-colored dressing. A vinaigrette can be emulsified or unemulsified. Emulsified vinaigrettes like the creamy balsamic vinaigrette that we find in the store are usually held together by an emulsifier like egg yolks (lecithin), mustard or a chemical emulsifier.
What is an emulsion?
An emulsion is the suspension of one liquid in another when the two liquids wouldn’t usually mix. Here, it’s oil and vinegar. Usually emulsions don’t hold forever but there are some permanent emulsions, like mayonnaise, that will never break.
What is an emulsifier?
An emulsifier is an ingredient that helps stabilize the emulsion longer, sometimes permanently. These can be lecithin from egg yolks, mustard, or chemicals like sodium stearoy lactylate (how can I remember this but not if I need milk at the store?).
Do I need to emulsify?
Not unless you want to! For convenience, I rarely do. I usually make my dressings in mason jars and just give them a good shake right before I use them. A lot of the dressings I enjoy have emulsifiers in them so they maintain a nice consistency for enough time to enjoy dinner.
How do I prevent my salad from getting overdressed?
One of my coworkers once told me that she learned to “dress the bowl, not the salad.” So now I always drizzle my dressing along the side of my bowl and gently turn my greens. It always ends with the perfect amount of dressing. Overdressing is a wonderful cooking problem, because you can always add more greens. Unlike over salting, you can relax on this one.
What kind of oil should I use?
Use whatever oil you like, depending on flavor. You can buy “salad” oil, and it is usually a “plain” tasting oil like canola, soy, safflower, etc. Avocado, hemp seed, and other “rare” and expensive oils are really trendy right now. I use olive oil a lot, but usually the very very light flavored ones.
My dressing turned out too salty. Why?
It takes salt a lot longer to dissolve in fat than in water so when you are seasoning your dressing, it’s good to give it a bit of time for the salt to dissolve before tasting or adding any more. If you are seasoning your dressing and it tastes perfect, it might taste over salted later when the rest of the salt dissolves. You can always swirl the bottom of the jar and see if there is salt left dissolved.
Blue Cheese Dressing
4 ounces’ blue cheese, crumbled
8 ounces’ mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine in mason jar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!