We made a commitment to ourselves that this was going to be the year we start eating more healthy, local, and fresh. Salads are a great way to pack in the extra veggies, but did you know that when you order a salad out it may have more fat, sugar, and calories than a hamburger? Aside from add-ins like crispy chicken and cheese, the salad dressing is usually the culprit. Once you master making your own salad dressings from scratch, I promise you will think twice before picking up a bottle of the premade stuff at the grocery store. It's easier than you think and your friends and family will thank you.
The basic formula for a dressing is to add 3 parts oil to 1 part acid such as vinegars or citrus juice. You can play with this ratio according to your own taste. For creamy dressings you can use buttermilk, which is slightly acidic, in addition to a vinegar of your choice.
You can find locally made olive oils and vinegars, in addition to fresh seasonal salad ingredients, with a quick search on Good Food Finder. Tasty add-ins for unique salad dressings include fresh herbs, garlic, shallot, ginger, Dijon mustard, citrus juices, chile, or soy sauce. Here are 3 dressings with salads to match to get you started.
Coleslaw with Creamy Lime Cilantro Dressing
Salad 1 pound green or red cabbage, or a combination 2-3 medium carrots
Creamy Lime Cilantro Dressing ½ c buttermilk or 1 ½ tsp vinegar and ½ cup milk 2 tbs mayonnaise 2 tbs sour cream 1 lime, juiced ½ tsp sugar 1 shallot, minced fine Small bunch of cilantro, leaves and tender stems minced 3 green onions, minced Salt and pepper
- Cut cabbage in half lengthwise. Using a sharp knife, core the cabbage by cutting out the center with a V cut. Shred cabbage by slicing into very thin ribbons. Shred carrot on the large holes of a box grater. Place in a large bowl and set aside.
- Make dressing by shaking together buttermilk, mayonnaise, sour cream, shallot, cilantro, lime juice, sugar, green onion, salt, and pepper in a jar with a tight fitting lid (use an old jam jar).
- Pour dressing over cabbage and carrots and toss to mix. Best if refrigerated for 30 minutes before serving.
Spinach, Beet, and Orange Salad
Salad 1 bunch baby beets (about 7) or 4-5 large beets, peeled and quartered 4 blood oranges OR navel oranges, peel removed and sliced into ½ in thick rounds 5 c spinach, washed, dried, and roughly torn
Orange Vinaigrette 1 orange, juiced 2 tsp red wine vinegar ¼ c olive oil 1 tsp Dijon mustard Salt and pepper
- Steam beets. Bring 1 inch of water in to boil in a medium pot. Insert steamer basket and place beets on top. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and steam beets for 10-12 minutes until easily pierced with a knife. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Prepare spinach and oranges and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Make dressing by shaking together orange juice, oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper in a jar with tight fitting lid (use an old jam jar).
- Top spinach with beets and oranges. Drizzle with dressing and serve.
Salad Niçoise with Herb Balsamic Vinaigrette
Salad 4 c mixed salad greens (red or green lettuce, arugula, mizuna, spinach, chicory, etc.), washed, dried, and roughly torn 4-5 small beets or potatoes, trimmed, scrubbed, peeled, and quartered 2 c green beans or asparagus, washed, tough ends removed, cut in 1 inch pieces 2 c cherry tomatoes, halved ½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved 4 eggs (optional) 2 c cubed or shredded cooked chicken, salmon, or tuna (optional) Olive oil Salt and pepper to taste
Croutons 3 c day old whole grain bread, torn into ½ inch pieces ¼ c olive oil ½ tsp dried oregano, or 1 tsp fresh, minced Salt and pepper to taste
Herb Balsamic Dressing 2 tsp balsamic vinegar 1 tbs red wine vinegar ¼ c olive oil 1 tbs fresh parsley, minced 1 tbs shallot, minced 2 tsp agave nectar or honey Salt and pepper to taste
- Roast the beets or potatoes. Preheat oven to 425°. Place trimmed, peeled and quartered beets or potatoes in aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap tightly and bake until tender when pierced with a knife, 30-45 minutes.
- Hard-cook the eggs. Prepare ice water bath by filling large bowl with ice and water, set aside. Place eggs in a large pot and cover with cold water by one inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover with lid and remove from heat. Let eggs sit, covered, for 12 minutes. Remove eggs with slotted spoon and submerge in ice water to stop cooking. Let cool completely, 5 minutes. Crack eggs all over to remove shells. Quarter eggs lengthwise.
- Blanch green beans or asparagus. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil over high heat. Submerge green beans or asparagus in boiling water. Boil until tender, 3-5 minutes. Remove green beans or asparagus with a slotted spoon and submerge in ice water bath.
- Bake croutons. Toss bread pieces with oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Layer evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in previously heated oven at 425° until crunchy, about 7-10 minutes. Allow croutons to cool on baking sheet.
- Prepare dressing. Place vinegar, oil, parsley, shallot, agave nectar or honey, salt, and pepper in a jar with tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously. Alternatively, you can whisk ingredients in a liquid measuring cup until emulsified or blend in a food processor. Assemble salads. Place 1 cup of salad greens on each plate. Top with beets or potato, green beans or asparagus, tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, chicken or fish, and olives. Top with croutons. Drizzle lightly with dressing.