Salad Dressings – refreshing alternatives

We are rolling into the high-calorie season of the holidays, and although I absolutely love all those calories, there are many times I want to dilute them somewhat and just have a simple salad. 

It’s so easy to grab a bottle of dressing, but it’s really just as easy, with a little forethought, to make your own. This way you avoid the salt, sugar, hydrogenated fats and preservatives so often found in commercially bottled dressings. Best of all, you have an endless array of choices for flavorings to suit whatever greens and veggies you want to use. 

Caesar doesn’t have to be used on Caesar salad

Parmesan peppercorn dressing with lemon thyme

There are as many types of salad dressings as there are salads. If a dressing is specific to a type of salad, like Caesar, you can make a delicious caesar salad. But you can also use it for a wonderful savory punch on any other kind of greens than the traditional romaine. 

Creamy dressings stand up to strong greens and salads with lots of ingredients. Vinaigrettes let the vegetable flavors come through and let sweet lettuces and mild cucumbers shine. 

Use a hand blender or shake in a jar

I find the easiest way to make and keep dressings is with a hand blender and a mason jar. If you like a chunky dressing, just put the ingredients in a jar and shake. If you like it smooth, blend it. Purchase plastic or save metal lids for mason jars and you’ll never be without a salad dressing jar. 

Creamy Dressing Base with flavorings:

  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • ½ c. sour cream
  • ¼ c. mayonnaise

Substitute any or all of these with pureed ricotta, cottage cheese and/or yogurt for a lighter dressing

Process in blender until smooth. Make a few hours ahead of eating to let the flavors blend. Store up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Additions

Add some or all according to your tastes. Change as your tastes do. 

Option 1
  • ½ avocado, mashed smooth
  • ¼ c. chives
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 2 T. chopped parsley
  • 2 cloves roasted garlic, skinned and mashed 
Option 2
  • 1 ½ t. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • pinch of cayenne
Option 3
  • 3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
Option 4
  • 2/3 c. parmesan
  • 1 t. coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/4 c. chopped scallions
  • 3 T. chopped fresh dill
  • 1 T. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T. prepared horseradish
  • salt and pepper
Option 5
  • 1/3 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 c. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 T. chopped fresh basil
  • 1 T. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 T. minced shallots
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Vinaigrettes

Plan on half oil and half acid for any vinaigrette, your choice of which oils and which kinds of vinegar to use. There is a myriad of choices from olive, peanut and safflower oils to avocado, walnut and sesame oils. Vinegars vary from aged balsamic to red wine to apple cider to rice. Other acids include lemon, lime, orange and tangerine juices. For a lighter dressing, use only ¼ oil and ¾ acid with half of the acid being citrus juice.  Pour the acid and vinegar into a shaker bottle and add whatever ingredients sound good to you. And don’t forget the salt and pepper. 

Lemon dressing
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 t. dry mustard
  • 1 T. chopped fresh herbs
  • 1 t. salt or to taste
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
Tomato Vinaigrette
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and peeled
  • 2 T. red wine vinegar
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 t. dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Blend tomatoes and add the rest of the ingredients. 

Vinaigrette with carrot puree for fall salads
  • 1/2 c. apple cider 
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • 2 T. minced shallots or onions
  • 1 T. sugar 
  • 1 T. cumin 
  • 1/3 c. cider vinegar
  • 1 cup roasted carrot puree (drizzle carrots with olive oil and roast at 375 until soft)

Combine ingredients through cumin in a heavy saucepan. Over low heat, simmer gently to thicken and reduce the mixture. Mix in the vinegar and puree. Serve over a salad of shredded apples, chopped walnuts and bitter greens. 

Sun-dried tomato vinaigrette
  • ¼ c. dry sun-dried tomatoes 
  • ½ c. boiling water
  • 1 c. tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • ¼ t. salt
  • ¼ t. pepper

Combine sun-dried tomatoes and boiling water in a bowl; let stand 30 minutes. Drain and reserve water. Chop sun-dried tomatoes. Combine ingredients in blender and process until smooth.

Asian Vinaigrette
  • small garlic clove, mashed into a paste
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 2 t. unseasoned rice vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • 1 t. lime juice
  • 1 T. honey
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 t. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 t. freshly grated ginger (don’t be tempted to use powdered – it really won’t taste the same. I keep whole ginger in the freezer and then simply grate it frozen – it keeps forever)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place ingredients in a mason jar and shake vigorously.

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