Ever been to a restaurant and wonder how even a simple salad tastes so much better than what you make at home? Chances are, it’s the homemade vinaigrette. Store bought salad dressings, even the supposed healthy ones, are still loaded with oils you don’t want (canola and soybean), thickeners you don’t need (guar gum, xantham gum) and unnecessary sweeteners (sugar). All these additives help to make the product shelf stable, but don’t do much for taste or your health. So what’s the solution? Make your own. Today’s recipe is one of my personal favorites, although both our cumin lime and honey mustard dressings are pretty awesome too. When people come over for dinner, they always ask how we make our dressing and I figured it was time to share.
Making salad dressing is not an exact science. Every time I whip up a jar, it’s slightly different since the ingredients available in my fridge, garden, and cupboard are ever changing. When we first committed to not buying dressing (one of the few resolutions that actually stuck!), we used one of the Good Seasons salad dressing cruets, the type with the measurements right on the glass. We followed the measurement markings, but instead of adding water and the “dressing packet” we sprinkled in fresh herbs instead. Things have evolved ever since, especially with the revelation that our garden produces thyme, oregano and rosemary year round. In preparation for this blog post I measured everything out so I could put together a coherent recipe to follow. I hope you love it as much as I do.
While this may drive some of you crazy, you don’t need to be exact with your measurements. I use a mix of red wine and balsamic, but you can use whatever vinegar blend you like. If you adore the sweetness of the balsamic flavor, go for just balsamic vinegar. For all the herbs below, fresh is best, but in a pinch, dried will work. If you use dried, you’ll need a bit more of each since they are are not as flavorful. In order to make this dressing “pop” and taste of restaurant quality, you will need at least 1-2 fresh herbs. If you are picking herbs from your garden or using fresh from the market, make sure to wash them thoroughly by soaking them in a bowl of clean water and letting the dirt sink to the bottom. Always get organic when you can. For the garlic powder, make sure it is pure garlic powder and not garlic salt or a seasoning with extra additives. If you don’t mind the raw garlic flavor, a small clove of garlic put through the garlic press works too. As far as the container, old salad dressing containers work beautifully. Really, any old glass jar will do as long as it has a tight-fitting lid.
Balsamic & Herb Vinaigrette
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 tsp fresh Thyme leaves, stems removed, minced
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, stems removed, minced very fine
1/2 tsp fresh oregano leaves, stems removed, minced
1/2 tsp fresh minced basil leaves or dried basil
1/2 tsp fresh minced parsley leaves or dried parsley
1/4 tsp ground mustard (or 1/2 tsp of Dijon mustard)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp minced shallots, red onion or scallions
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chop all your fresh herbs very finely, especially the rosemary. Add ingredients into the glass jar in the order listed above, with the exception of salt and pepper. Put lid on the glass container and shake vigorously until powdered ingredients are fully incorporated. Taste, and add salt and pepper to your liking. You can also do this in a food processor and pour in the oil in a fine stream while the processor is running. But this method involves more dishes and special equipment, which may scare some of you off and is really not necessary. This dressing is best after it has been sitting for 4-24 hours in the fridge, but can be used right away. Store in the refrigerator and shake well before pouring on your salad.