Salad dressing: friend or foe?
It can go either way, really. Kraft Fat Free Zesty Italian Salad Dressing. Sounds healthy, right? Free of fats. That part is true. First of all, most any ‘light’ dressings have a first ingredient of water. Therefore, an equal amount has less flavor than ‘full fat’ options, meaning you probably use more of it. High fructose corn syrup is the 3rd ingredient. I stop there. Foe.
Beloved Ranch? Interestingly, first ingredient is water again. Third is sugar. A little later comes monosodium glutamate. Yuck. 12 grams of fat. 370 milligrams of sodium. And remember that these dressings keep for quite some time. Convenient, yes; but what is in there that makes it keep for so long? Foe.
So where can you find a friend? In your pantry and refrigerator! Making homemade salad dressing sounds a little intimidating. It can be done very simply, or more complex for various kinds. Practice makes perfect. And as always, experiment and change to suit your tastes!
The basics: acid, oil, something sweet.
Here are a couple of recipes, beginning with the most simple.
Equal amounts vinegar (my favorite is balsamic) and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Stir in a tiny bit of something sweet (e.g., maple syrup or honey) and some pepper. This is my go-to. If I have nothing prepared, this obviously takes seconds to prepare! It is the base for most others.
Sometimes I will even just squeeze some fresh lemon, drizzle some EVOO and sprinkle some pepper on my salad! This works especially well if you have lots of ‘yummies’ on your salad like nuts and fruit.
My very favorite salad dressing that I typically always have made is this:
In a small blender or food processor, blend together:
a garlic clove
a few slices of onion
a spoonful of Dijon mustard
lemon juice and/or zest
Once these are mixed, stir or whisk in some EVOO (about equal amount to vinegar)
Still pretty easy, huh?! But so good I could drink it.
Of course you can get adventurous and make ranch, Caesar, etc. homemade too! Think lots of flavor to minimize the need for much ‘cream’. And for the cream, try out plain yogurt and low-fat milk and soft cheeses.
Here is a prime example of taking something that could be really terrible for you; the bad fats, sugar, salt and preservatives from most bought dressings, and turning it into something that will make your whole body smile. Full of antioxidants, omega-3 fats; and vinegar is claimed to have a wide array of healing powers. Out with the bad, in with the amazing! The great part is, the amazing even tastes amazing!
Final notes: the better ingredients you begin with, the better your final product will be. That being said, I typically buy a ‘mid’ level EVOO, not generic, but not the real fancy stuff either. My vinegar, I do spend a little more on. Still not the little bottle that costs $30, but something rich and full of flavor.