We love salads. Ceasar, coleslaw, poppy seed fruit salad, garden salad, potato, pasta, Caprese, Spinach salad with bacon, you name it. What I don't like is spending upwards of $6 for a bottle of salad dressing. Oh ya sometimes I find dressing on sale for $2.50 or so and I would stock up. That was the case a few months back when I found the mans garden french on sale. I bought 3 or 4 bottles of it. Then one day when I was idly hanging out in the kitchen waiting for something I read the ingredients. High fructose corn syrup was bad enough and almost all dressings contain xanthan gum which is used as a thickener. I can almost live with that since you only use a little on a salad. Right? However when I got to propylene glycol red flags went up. I'm feeding this stuff to my family???? NOT! How many of you have seen this ingredient in different foods and casually wondered what it was only to go on your merry way? I looked it up. It has many uses. It is said the "acute oral toxicity of propylene glycol is very low" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propylene_glycol It is also used as an anti -freeze component in newer vehicles and a de-icer at airports. Propylene glycol is made from propylene oxide, a colorless volatile liquid use in the manufacturing of plastics. So yes! I want to feed this to my family! Bring it on!
Why is it used? It keeps the ingredients in salad dressing in suspension or mixed up so the oil and vinegar doesn't separate. Well excuse me but I think I am quite capable of shaking a bottle. I might work off a calorie or two doing that. Because I prefer to feed my family simply healthy food, as opposed to chemicals, and because spending $6 on a bottle of salad dressing really irks me I am on a mission to learn to make all the salad dressings that we use. Mostly that is french, thousand Island, Ceasar, and poppy seed dressing to name a few. In addition I am going to share them with you. So tonight we had a wedge salad with blue cheese vinaigrette. I really like blue cheese but I think I prefer a blue cheese dressing that is creamier than the vinaigrette. Too much vinegar in this recipe. The recipe said I could use white or champagne vinegar and I used white because that is what I had. Next time I will try the champagne. For those of you who like vinaigrette here is the recipe.
Blue Cheese Vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white or champagne vinegar
1/4 tsp. Balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or tsp. dried)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese.
Put in a blender or food processor and blend.
The salad itself was a wedge of iceberg lettuce (I almost never buy this) with cucumber slices, red onion tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles, and toasted pecans sprinkled on top. I will do this with romaine next time.
My personal favorite and one that my family really likes is this Ceasar dressing. Toss with a basic romaine lettuce, croutons, and grated Parmesan cheese.
Caesar Salad Dressing
2 small garlic cloves, minced
Now before you go eeew anchovy. Take a look at your bottle of Worcestershire sauce. It's made with anchovy. Believe me you wont really know it's there and it is only a teaspoon. You can use the canned anchovy in oil (last forever in the fridge) just mash it up or a tube of anchovy paste from the store. (Sounds inviting doesn't it?)
Traditionally Ceasar Salad dressing is made with a raw egg and used immediately so because I wasn't sure how long raw egg would last in a dressing stored in the fridge I decided to use a hard boiled egg yolk. Worked great. This dressing was such a hit that we eat it as a dip with romaine lettuce pieces.
Once you have a collection of salad dressing recipes it is a snap to make them. Most of the ingredients are already in your pantry. Vinegars, oils, herbs etc. If you add a few other condiments you will find making these are easy and you can do it way in advance and put them in pretty bottles like these. Or you can do what I did the first time I made honey mustard dressing and just use the plastic mustard bottle that was empty after I got done with it. No red neck in me. LOL!
I am going to estimate that these salad dressings cost me $1 on average to make and they taste better than store bought. You could say they are more convenient because you don't have to make a special trip to the store when you find out at the last minute that you are out of dressing and your mother in law just arrived for dinner. Impress the old bat instead.
I will do a follow up blog with recipes for Thousand Island, (super easy) Garden French, and Poppy seed dressing for a green salad with fruit. That's the one the kids can't get enough of. I have to use my biggest bowl when I make that salad.