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Ode to Salad Dressing

February 24, 2010

Wednesday night is date night in our house, and this week it was a double date with our friends Kristin and Rowdy (and the Olympics!). We went to the Joshua Tree again…we just can’t say no to a half-priced menu! I hope one day when Z and I both have well-paying jobs we can go out to nice restaurants and order fancy dinners. If I still have to blog you all will get to see it! But until then, bar food it is!

This also means no exciting recipe, but I wanted to share something near and dear to my heart. And that is salad dressing.

I always bring a salad with me to work for lunch. I actually bring a slew of things: green monster, salad, sprouted bread, raw almond butter, an apple…I like to snack throughout the work day, so I don’t get bored and reach for some potato chips! But salad is always involved to help me get my 5 a day! I always bring some dressing with me that I make at home and put in an old jar (nowadays an old salsa jar) so I can store it at my desk. But today, *gasp!* I had run out.

“No big deal” I thought, and went to borrow some from a co-worker. The great thing about having refrigerators at the office is there are always a ton of salad dressing to choose from. Italian dressing? Sure! I took one bite and then I remembered: I hate store bought salad dressing.

My Mom never ever bought salad dressing.  We always had one of these guys at home filled with any concoction she had come up with that week:

We had salad with our meals pretty much every night, but they were never boring! My Mom could transform lettuce into an experience for the senses. Any type of vinaigrette was possible: lemon, herbs, apple cider, you name it! I can’t even begin to talk about her Caesar salad; that will have to be for another post. But her homemade, go-to, day to day salad dressing was a true treat. Just ask my childhood friend Vicky, who used to slurp it out of her bowl once the lettuce was gone. Now when I have store bought dressing it tastes fake. Even a vinaigrette has a gooey quality that makes me squeam. The creamy ones are more tolerable, but I have a love for vinegar and all of its pizazz.

When I graduated from college I bought myself one of these “salad dressing things” (is there a real name for them?) and have followed in my Mom’s footsteps. After a lot of hard work, I believe I have created a near match for something she casually throws together. This is a great, basic recipe, and then see below for additional “flair”.

Basic Vinaigrette

2 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar

1 pinch of sugar (vital ingredient, the difference is unreal)


And serve!

Ta da! That was easy 🙂 Now for the fun part.

This recipe is basic, but so many variations can be made. For example:

~Asian dressing: use sesame oil and or rice vinegar. Maybe a splash of soy?

~Use white balsamic instead of dark for lighter meals and fish

~Add some texture: dried herbs, lemon zest, Parmesan cheese, dried cranberries, pomegranate juice, garlic…

~Toss in any salad: pasta, rice, quinoa

~Use as a marinade for chicken

~Use infused oils for an extra kick. Or infuse your own!

The sky is the limit!! If you look through the salad dressing aisle at your local grocery store and see the hundreds of dressings that are out there, that is how many variations you can make using pure, simple ingredients. No preservatives necessary, because you will eat this up in a flash.

Words to the wise:

First, you must make sure you shake this up well, so the oil and vinegar really mix. Otherwise you will just pour oil on the salad. That is why the stopper on top is awesome, hold it on top and shake like a maraca in a mariachi band. Don’t hold back, go all out! It should look all one color with little bubbles in it when you are done.

Second, when serving this to friends and loved ones, remind them to hold on to the top of the jug. My family’s kitchen floor has seen too many a salad dressing splatter, though the dog never minded 🙂

Happy Hump Day!

Do you have any go-to family tricks for cooking?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2010 10:30 pm

    Word. Nothing like homemade dressing. The bottled stuff just tastes WRONG after a while!

  2. February 24, 2010 10:39 pm

    I usually don’t do dressing, but I like to dress my salad with tuna salad and cottage cheese. Weird, but it kind of really jzzes up the flavor! Hee.

  3. February 24, 2010 11:41 pm

    I’ve never put sugar in my oil and vinegar dressings before so I will definitely be trying that! I like your last tip, that would happen to me 🙂

  4. February 25, 2010 9:01 am

    I have a confession. For a “healthy eater” I don’t eat nearly enough salad. Shameful, I know!I just can’t seem to get inspired by the produce this winter. I actually had a nice week of salads about 6 weeks ago and told myself “Yeah! I’m gonna do this all the time!” Um, didn’t happen. What do you like to put on your salads?

    • February 25, 2010 12:04 pm

      Hey Cara! My salads are always a “what do I have in the fridge” moment every morning. Start with the basic lettuce and tomato, then whatever else there is! Mushrooms, carrots, zucchini. Leftover spaghetti squash or veggies? Done! Sometime we will have cheese from a recipe, so I’ll add that, or a slice of whatever Z has for his sandwiches that week. It’s different every day, which keeps it from getting boring 🙂

  5. February 25, 2010 10:25 am

    Mind reader! I love dressings, too, and plan to do a bunch of related posts soon.

  6. February 25, 2010 10:56 am

    wow, I loved reading your story about your mom’s wonderful dressings. How amazing that she served such a healthy side every night! I hadn’t really even eaten salad until a few years ago and now I just can’t get enough. Thanks so much for the dressing recipes, they look and sound amazing!!

  7. February 25, 2010 11:19 am

    I’ve only been to Joshua Tree a few times. I need to hit it up more often.

    Your salad dressing story is cute 🙂


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