“To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist – the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know how much oil one must mix with one’s vinegar.” – Oscar Wilde
Why the hell are you still buying bottled salad dressing?
It’s totally crammed with horrible things for you (sugar, sugar, sugar, salt), and only serves to make something that was potentially really good for you actually really terrible for you.
I mean, unless you are my old friend M, who has a pathological fear of condiments (and salad dressing is nothing if not a condiment made out of other condiments), there is absolutely no reason for you to have to work you way through a bottle of $4.50 dressing simply because you spent $4.50 on it when you could be making a fresh dressing based on what you want to eat. Tonight. And, you’ll be doing it for pennies on the dollar.
Rest assured, this isn’t some post encouraging you to eat a fat free diet guaranteed to help you ring in the new year with a halo of self righteousness, perched ever so jauntily upon your noggin. We all know I’m just not that kind of girl.
First up, pick your fat. The world is your oyster here: sour cream, mayonnaise, olive oil, eggs, or plain yogurt (if you are feeling overly virtuous). I, personally, like to mix my fats for dressing, wanting the rich eggyness of mayo against a tart sour cream or lighter oil.
Then pick your acid. This too, could be anything you have lying around. A lemon, a lime, a couple of oranges, vinegars of all types (apple cider, plain white, balsamic, rice wine, whatever).
Then you need to choose what you want to flavor your dressing with. And the great thing here is, that you can choose *anything*. Got a little harissa in your fridge you don’t know what to do with? Have a go. Likewise any little bits of cheese, dried herbs, spices, etc. The important thing here is that you make sure that you match up your flavors with the fat/acids you have on hand. In other words, you probably aren’t going to be very pleased with adding Parmesan to sesame oil, but you could be absolutely knocked out by chilli powder with avocado oil, sour cream, salt & pepper, and red wine vinegar or better yet, lime juice.
So where does this land us? Well, we know that we need to do the following:
1. Pick a fat
2. Pick an acid
3. Pick a flavor
Now you have to get them all to play together nicely. I like to use a blender, because standing there whisking a dressing into submission is something I do only when I don’t have a blender handy. So, if you have one, chuck everything in and turn that thing on high and let it go for a minute or two.
If you don’t, get your acid and flavor components into a bowl, and then put that bowl on top of a wet towel (to stop the inevitable chasing of the bowl the length of your counter and eventually onto the floor), and start whisking. Add your oil in a slow, steady stream (like honey off a spoon). When it’s all worked in, it will be opaque and have a thicker consistency than the sum of its parts would let on. Add a little water (seriously, no more than a teaspoon) at the end, and it will help your emulsion hold itself together (kinda like that glass of water between drinks at a bar).
And if you’ve gotten this far, you deserve the most amazing salad dressing recipe in the whole wide world. I honestly do not go a week without someone saying something about this dressing or asking for the formula. And the thing is, it’s super famous and from my home town. Chef Philip Roemer of The Palace Hotel (c. 1923) in San Francisco is responsible for making every salad it has ever graced three times better than it should be. It’s called Green Goddess, and I swear, it could get you married if you aren’t careful. And it’s not just good for salad! I put it on sandwiches, toast, push it on the plate under grain salads, use it as my go-to crudite dip, and pretty much want to bathe in it. My blender rule (or food processor) is in full effect with this one. You want a fully emulsified and thick texture at the end.
You’ll only need a few tablespoons per salad, but make the full batch because I (and you) know you’ll be back for more.
Green Goddess Dressing
Adapted and Updated by Yours Truly
- Blender or food processor (seriousl)y, no foolin’ here)
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 tbsp. whole grain mustard
- 1 bunch parsley (the whole damn thing)
- 1 bunch chives
- 1 bunch basil (just the leaves) or tarragon
- 6 anchovy filets
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 4 cloves garlic
- 6 scallions, chopped
- Black pepper
Whack everything into the blender or food processor. Let it run for at least a minute. It will be thicker than you think necessary, but just trust me. Holds for about a 2 weeks in the fridge. Put. It. On. Everything.