Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fantastic Homemade Salad Dressing: Yes, You Can Make it Yourself!

Since discovering the secret to great homemade creamy salad dressing, I never buy prepackaged bottles of the stuff. Like most homemade foods, making your own salad dressing has so many advantages. It is less expensive and tastes infinitely better than store bought. You control the ingredients so it is definitely healthier than store bought dressings that often contain high fructose corn syrup and lots of chemical additives to stabilize and preserve the dressing. To up the health factor even more, you can use low fat or fat free varieties of mayonnaise and/or sour cream, although I prefer using plain yogurt to using fat free sour cream (I will admit I do NOT make low fat or fat free variations myself. I'll just use less dressing on my salad when I'm watching calories). Making your own is so quick and simple, you can teach your kids to make it. Once you know the base recipe all you need to do is try any number of limitless combinations of flavorings to get truly unique and delicious salad dressings.

The base of the dressing is this:

Equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream (lets start with 1/2 cup of each)
Several tablespoons of an acidic liquid like lemon, lime, buttermilk, or vinegars depending on the variety you want to make (begin with three tablespoons for our recipe but keep your liquid on hand if you need to thin out your dressing at a later stage)
Several teaspoons of minced fresh herbs like basil, oregano, cilantro, chives, or dill
Sweetening (usually a teaspoon of sugar or honey or the sweetener of your choice)
Salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Here are a few of the variations we've come up with:

Buttermilk Herb
Begin with your base ingredients of mayo and sour cream and whisk in three tablespoons of buttermilk and the juice of half a lemon. Add 1 tsp each of freshly minced basil, chives and dill(if using dried herbs reduce amounts by 1/2) as well as one minced garlic clove and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix until homogenous, adding more buttermilk if needed to get the consistency your family likes. This ends up being very similar to a buttermilk ranch dressing.

Cracked Peppercorn and Parmesan
Begin with your base ingredients of mayo and sour cream and whisk in three tablespoons of red wine vinegar. With the flat side of a meat mallet or the bottom of a handled pot crush 2 teaspoons of whole peppercorns placed in a ziplock baggy. When peppercorns are course in texture add to mayo/sour cream mixture. Add 1 minced garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon of sugar and two tablespoons of grated parmesan. Mix until homogenous, adding more vinegar until the dressing is the consistency your family likes.

Southwestern Chile
Begin with your base ingredients of mayo and sour cream and whisk in the juice of one lime, one teaspoon of honey, and three tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Mince one clove of garlic, 1/4 of red onion (finely minced), and two tablespoons of cilantro(minced) and whisk into dressing. Mince one chile in adobo sauce fine and add to dressing along with two teaspoons of the adobo sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix until homogenous, adding the juice of up to one more lime if needed.

I've also discovered the secret to perfectly delicious vinaigrettes, which I will save for a future recipe post. Now go make yourself a nice, big, healthy, salad!
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