Eating real food that you make from scratch need not be real difficult. There are small ways to incorporate homemade items into your everyday cooking. Making salad dressing from scratch is easy and lets you control ingredients at minimal cost. In many cases, you will have everything you need to make a good dressing right in your pantry or refrigerator.
Three types of salad dressings
Oil-based dressings are an emulsion of salad oil and vinegar. Salad oil is a blanket term for any light oil that has little to no flavor. Vegetables and canola are common, but safflower, corn, and peanut oil are other good choices. Olive oil can also be used, but will alter the light flavor of a vinaigrette. Herbs and spices can be added to create your own unique flavor. Prepare these in advance to allow the flavors to meld together. While these can be refrigerated, they should be brought to room temperature and shaken before serving. Start with the basic proportion of three parts oil to one part vinegar, then add your own twist.
Creamy dressings (cream-based) are made with fresh cream, sour cream or yogurt — or a combination of creams. The cream is mixed with lemon juice or vinegar, salt and pepper. Herbs and spices can also be added. These should be refrigerated and have a short shelf life, so make just what you need for a few days at a time.
Mayonnaise-based dressings are highly versatile. As the type suggests, the main ingredient is mayonnaise. Remember that not all mayonnaise is created equal. Some brands are mild while others have a vinegary bite, so taste your mayonnaise plain before adding ingredients. You can use this type of dressing with lettuce and vegetable salads as will as fruit salads. This type of dressing is also good with fish or on sandwiches. This type of dressing should also be refrigerated.
Salad dressing is one of the most versatile and forgiving ways to incorporate homemade food into your meal plan. Once you have the basics, the variations are as vast as your own creativity.
Niki Davis is the creator of Rooted in Foods food heritage blog and a regular contributor to The Southern Illinoisan's weekly Taste section. You can find her at www.rootedinfoods.com.