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Salad Dressing Basics

By Emma Grace Fairchild:

Salads and veggies certainly can stand on their own as a source of flavor, but a great dressing can make or break a dish, too! From a basic garden salad to warm salads with roasted veggies, or a dark green salad of kale and wild greens, we can use a dressing to elevate these dishes, tease our taste buds, and to contribute flavor and nutrition to our diets.

Bottled salad dressings have improved a bit in terms of availability and variety, but they don’t compare to homemade. Dressing from the store usually is filled with salts and sugars, low quality oil, and preservatives. While they could do in a pinch, after reading this article, I hope everyone is inspired to try to make their own. With the right pantry of ingredients and a little creativity, the options for a quick whisk and an impressive flavor are endless.

The most simple and changeable outline for salad dressing is a vinaigrette. It is made from a combination of fats from an oil and acid from vinegar or juice. Whisked, shaken in a jar, or even beaten with a fork, these ingredients are mixed together with additional spices and flavors to make a super fast dressing. The options are really limitless when you consider the different oils and vinegars available. And you can start to experiment with flavors.

Different oils to consider are

  • Extra virgin olive
  • Walnut
  • Sesame
  • Coconut
  • Hazelnut
  • Avocado

Different acids include

  • Balsamic (which comes in white, aged, and many other varieties)
  • Red or white wine vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Fruit vinegar
  • Rice vinegar
  • Lime, lemon, or orange juice

Some additional flavors include

  • Mustard
  • Honey
  • Dried or fresh herbs
  • Tahini or nut butter
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Shallot
  • Soy sauce
  • Chili sauce
  • Lemon or lime zest

To make a basic vinaigrette, there is a simple ratio to start with. From there, simply adjust amounts of additional ingredients until you reach the desired taste! I make all of my dressings in a small jar (repurposed from peanut butter or jam) by adding all ingredients and vigorously shaking until blended well. The ratio I use is as follows:

4 parts oil

1 part vinegar

1-2 tsp additional flavors

To get you started, here are some basic oil and vinegar dressings that are tasty and easy to make:

One of my favorites is a honey mustard balsamicdressing that I put on just about every salad I make.

Put all ingredients into a small jar and shake until emulsified.

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp mustard (dijon or whole grain are great)
  • 1 tsp raw honey
  • Salt and pepper

Or, using the same jar method, try this orange dressingon spinach or bitter greens like endive.

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice
  • ½ tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp mustard

One more lovely flavor combination I use fairly often is a simple soy and sesamedressing.

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 small clove of garlic, grated or pressed
  • ½-inch piece ginger, grated

About Emma Grace

Emma Grace is a full time college student in San Diego with a background in raw food nutrition and holistic health. She has a passion for gardening, living a low impact and sustainable lifestyle, and loves animals. She lives on a collective community urban homestead with a backyard flock of hens, a bull dog, a snake, a tarantula and plenty of houseplants. In her free time she enjoys foraging for local fruits, playing guitar, writing, and reading. Aside from Green-Mom, Emma Grace also contributes to Baktun Raw Foods Blog and her school newspaper.

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