Help me start eating more salad!
July 24, 2007 8:50 AM   Subscribe

Give me some salad dressing recipes!

I am moving into my own apartment after living with my parents for the summer. I want to get back in the habit of cooking, and cook more than ever before!

I want to start eating a lot of salads, but I don't want to use store bought dressings. Can anyone give me good salad dressing recipes?

Two salads I absolutely love are Famous Dave's BBQ chicken salad, I believe it's a honey barbecue dressing of some sort, but it's a lot thinner than barbecue sauce.
The other dressing I'd love to make is the kind that is used at Panera on their Asian Sesame Chicken salad. It's a vinegarette of some kind, it's on the sweeter side.

I think I'd generally like to make dressings with an oil and vinegar base, but I'm open to other delicious options as well.
Also, if you can let me know if it goes well with another type of food, such as Italian or something.
posted by Becko to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:56 AM on July 24, 2007

The secret to a good oil and vinegar dressing is to remember that it's an emulsion. So, you don't want to just add your ingredients together and mix. Start with your "base", which is vinegar and flavorings. Then add your oil slowly stirring quickly all the while with a fork or small whisk. You shouldn't ever have a layer of oil on top that you have to mix in- the dressing should just be getting progressively more viscous. A good homemade vinaigrette needs very little oil, and should be flavorful enough that you don't need very much on your salad, either.

The "base" is where you can play around. Balsamic vinegar (get the good stuff- it's worth it and you need less), mustard, salt and pepper is a good one. White wine vinegar, mustard, and lemon is another. Fresh (not dried) herbs are always great- tarragon and thyme are good bets.
posted by mkultra at 9:00 AM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's the Panera recipe - I've tried this and it's ridiculously good.

Panera Bread Asian Sesame Dressing

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients except canola oil in a medium mixing bowl with a wire whisk. Once ingredients are combined, slowly pour in the oil while whisking to form an emulsion. From The Panera Bread Cookbook by Peter Reinhart.
posted by iconomy at 9:01 AM on July 24, 2007 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: I am really excited to try the Panera recipe, because that is slowly becoming my favorite salad! Thanks a lot!!
posted by Becko at 9:06 AM on July 24, 2007

I have found that the key to having good vinaigrette is to find the one that you like, and ALWAYS keep some on hand. I make mine in an old olive oil bottle, and when it starts to get low, i make more in the same bottle.

The fact that I am constantly adding to the former batch(es) of vinaigrette gives it a depth of flavor that simply making it once will never have.

I store it in the refrigerator, which means I do have to pull it out about 30 minutes prior to using so that it de-solidifies (there's probably a real word for that, but whatever...).

The master recipe I use (and slightly vary each time, is mostly from The New Best Recipe (best cookbook ever, btw...)

3T (Tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
1.5t (teaspoons) whole grain dijon mustard (or other whole grain mustard)
1.5t good quality balsamic vinegar
1t minced shallot or garlic (optional)
1/8t salt
pinch freshly ground pepper

put in jar. shake 'til emulsified. sample on small leaf of salad greens. adjust flavor as necessary. if it tastes a little "muddy" and needs brightening, a tiny dash of lemon juice or champagne vinegar will do the trick nicely.
posted by dersins at 9:19 AM on July 24, 2007 [4 favorites]

I like sweeter salad dressings too..I've kind of developed my own.

Start with a balsamic vinegar base, add a bit of traditional mustard and some honey. Mix well and start to add walnut oil. Keep mixing with a fork until you get a good consistency as mkultra described.

Additionally you can replace the honey with Bonne Maman blackberry or fig jam and that adds a really great dimension to otherwise traditional salad dressing. I also think adding a bit of chopped green onion or flax seeds is a good alternative. Even pumpkin seeds!

Making your own salad dressing is great culinary fun. Enjoy!
posted by heatherbeth at 9:24 AM on July 24, 2007

I make salads and dressing all the time and have these tips:

1) Adding mustard to a dressing helps keep it emulsified, so that the adding of the oil doesn't have to be so fussy.

2) experiment with different types of vinegars and acids and learn which are stronger, milder sweeter. I like sherry vinegar, rice wine vinegar, melfor honey vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice, and more

3) experiment with oils: extra virgin olive oil (not lite!), walnut oil, sesame oil. I don't care for tasteless oils on salads such as canola, peanut, and the like.

4) you can make your dressing right on your salad or in the bowl before you add the greens. Mix the dressing in the bottom of the bowl, add the salad ingredients, and then toss the salad well.

5)sometimes salt and pepper are all the spice you need

6) you can add flavor to the salad just with the greens that you use. Try peppery arugula, fresh basil leaves, parsley, salad burnet, water cress, and herb greens.
posted by Red58 at 10:28 AM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I like to marinate tomatoes in olive oil and vinegar with chifonnaded basil and chives with a little mustard.

After you have eaten the tomatoes, the left-over marinade keeps for a while and make a good dressing for non-tomato salads.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 10:37 AM on July 24, 2007

I was recently shown a way of making vinaigrette which resulted in a really smooth, thick dressing:

Take a bit of smooth mustard in a small bowl.
Add a teaspoon of olive oil and stir with a fork until it mixes together and you can't see the oil any more.
Keep adding oil and mixing until you end up with a smooth oily paste. The mustard seems to sort of expand with time and mixing to absorb the oil, it's strange.
Then add the vinegar (balsamic), salt, pepper, whatever.

Up to this point I'd always been a "bung it all in a bottle and shake" person, but this is really rather nice.

Also, there's the minimalist Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Salt, Pepper. Lovely with cucumber, red onion + coriander salad.
posted by handee at 10:52 AM on July 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

This makes a lot but is my absolute favorite -- sooooooo good with a nutty green like arugula ...

Honey Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette
2 T fresh basil
1 T minced garlic
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp garlic powder
1 T sugar
1 T honey
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
posted by jacksides at 12:09 PM on July 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

One of my favorite Spring/Summer salads that I make has a very easy dressing (all measurements approximate, as I go on taste):
  • 1-2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 -1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1-2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 - 1 tbsp fresh minced tarragon
  • enough olive oil to emuslify
I toss this into a salad of mixed greens, sliced strawberries, tarragon, sliced green apple, and shaved manchego cheese.
posted by kaseijin at 12:13 PM on July 24, 2007

We eat loads of salad and everything gets drizzled in some variation or other (the acidic bit) of this basic recipe:

5 tablespoons really good extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice OR white wine vinegar OR balsamic vinegar OR red wine vinegar (you get the gist)
1/2 teaspoon english mustard (made up)

Put all in an empty jar, screw lid, shake really well. season with salt and pepper to taste, but go easy - it shouldn't need much of either.

I think the best approach for adding other flavours is to build them into the salad itself - fresh basil or tarragon leaves, sliced chilli pepper, etc.

This hasn't got boring in about five years. Make more than you need - it keeps for a few days. Don't refridgerate or the olive oil will solidify!
posted by dowcrag at 12:31 PM on July 24, 2007

This is possibly the easiest dressing to make, and it is fantastic: toss Boston/Bibb/Butter lettuce with Walnut Oil until the leaves are lightly coated. Squeeze fresh lemon ove the lettuce, and sprinkle with salt.

The salad is easy and a wonderfully light treat on a summer's day.
posted by mjbraun at 12:33 PM on July 24, 2007

I've had mucho salad success with this simple dressing:
  • 1/4 of an avocado, diced
  • Juice of 2 lemons, plus a good pinch of their zest
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper (freshly cracked, please)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (just a teaspoon or two)
Just vigorously whisk it all together until it's nice and smooth- just a little thinner than, say, a Ranch dressing. The avocado helps the dressing emulsify. Avoid the urge to add too much avocado or oil, though.

Goes great on a salad of greens topped with grilled shrimp, walnuts, and cubed jarlsberg cheese. I've also drizzled it over grilled chicken and zucchini. Mmmm.
posted by kryptondog at 12:46 PM on July 24, 2007 [3 favorites]

And 1 tsp. of shame for wacky comment spacing
posted by kryptondog at 12:48 PM on July 24, 2007

This is the best salad dressing I've ever had. Goes really well with a salad of mixed greens, walnuts, cherry tomatoes, feta, and apples. The recipe makes quite a bit. Courtesy of Big Bear Brewing Co in Coral Springs, FL.

Vanilla Vinaigrette

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
2/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp grated spanish onion
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1 scant tsp kosher salt
1 vanilla bean
1-1/4 cups olive oil

Place oil in small pan over low heat. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the delicious insides into the oil. Throw the bean in there as well. Bring the heat up to a very low simmer, then remove from the heat and let stand for an hour. Make sure you don't cook the oil or else the dressing will taste like...cooked oil. After the oil is cool, take out the vanilla bean and throw the oil plus everything else in a blender. Voila! Lots and lots of crazy good vanilla vinaigrette.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 1:35 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Parmesan Dressing
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese (or substitute any other hard, dry cheese - pecorino roman, queso anejo, etc)
3 tbsp mayo
1/4 cup of mild vinegar (rice vinegar, for example)
2/3 cup olive oil
salt, pepper

Combine all ingredients, whisk together.

If you don't have one, get a frother - they make making a vinaigrette incredibly easy, and do a much better job at emulsifying the oil and vinegar than you can with a whisk.
posted by skwm at 1:55 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

The concept of "salad dressing" doesn't really enter into my perception of how to make salad at home. Flavors should always be fresh (that's like the whole point of salad), so there's no reason to make the dressing by itself ahead of time. Just keep the dressing ingredients simple so they can be assembled with the vegetables.

Combinations I like:

  • Paper-thin cucumber slices (cut on a mandolin or with a peeler), lime juice, salt
  • Green- or red-leaf lettuce, lemon juice, salt, pepper, extra-virgin olive oil (this is my standby salad in the wintertime and can be made with limes for a slightly different flavor)
  • Avocado dressing, similar to the previous item, but with chunks of avocado tossed in and mashed up a bit so it coats the leaves
  • Classic vinaigrette with red wine vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, olive oil (this is good on pretty much any lettuce, and bacon and tomatoes are great in there too)
  • Israeli salad: chopped tomato, carrot, red bell pepper and cucumber with chopped scallion, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and extra-virgin olive oil
  • Thinly shaved (mandolin) celery with thinly shaved parmesan/grana padano, salt, extra virgin olive oil, pepper (this is a great use for even the stringiest celery, just cut against the grain; alternatively use fennel)
  • Chopped cucumber with toasted sesame oil, hot chili oil, and ground Sichuan peppercorns
  • Cilantro and coarsely cut scallions (another Sichuan salad), with a little vinegar, oil, salt
  • Green goddess (OK, here's one dressing that is basically made by itself): in a blender, combine mayo, mustard, oil, lemon juice, lime juice, salt, pepper, mint leaves, parsley leaves, basil leaves, and any other herbs you like. Also add some water to bring it to the right consistency.

  • posted by rxrfrx at 3:20 PM on July 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

    This is the most basic dijonnaise I know of, but it's also my most-used salad dressing of all time. It's easy, tasty, and can be customized endlessly. Did I mention it was easy?

    Mix 1 part dijon mustard and 1 part vinegar of your choice (balsamic or red wine works great). Grab a whisk or a fork, and then drizzle in 2 parts olive oil slowly while stirring vigorously. The dressing should emulsify into a mayonnaise-like substance, and is good to go.

    Season with:
    minced garlic or ginger
    whatever else you dare add.

    Experiment with flavoured oils, mustards, vinegars... ultimately this one recipe can make thousands of results.

    The key to emulsifying a dressing properly is to add the oil slowly at the beginning, stirring hard. If you do it right, it'll stay mixed forever.
    posted by mek at 4:14 AM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

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