I make my own salad dressing for three reasons
- It's the way I was raised.
- It tastes better.
- It's cheaper than store-bought.
My technique is as follows:
1 part acid to 3 parts oil (usually extra virgin olive oil (sometimes I mix them depending on the salad), and some fresh flavorings.
This might seem like a lot of oil to you, but bear with me. I like my salads to be not so vinegary, and I also add other ingredients that cut the acid even further. However, if your tastes are different, you can do 1 part acid to 2 parts oil. Still fine.
What kind of acid? Here's a list of my favorites:
- fresh-squeezed citrus juice (Meyer lemon, limoncito or key lime, tangerine, grapefruit, etc.)
- sherry vinegar
- red wine vinegar
- champagne vinegar
- apple cider vinegar
- balsamic vinegar (balsamic vinegar is not typically used on salads in Italy. It is used to finish roasted vegetable and meats. My Italian papa would die if he saw me dressing a salad with it.)
Nice oils for salad:
- olive oil (extra virgin or light, or a mixture)
- sunflower oil (especially Russian sunflower oil—it smells like sunflower seeds)
- nut oils like walnut or (my favorite) hazelnut
- toasted sesame oil (used carefully for Asian-inspired salads)
Once you get your acid and oil combined in a jar or shaker then add some embellishment (dried herbs have no place in salad dressings, IMO). Experiment with any combination of the following:
- chopped shallots, scallions, or sweet onion
- minced garlic
- grated ginger (nice in lime-based dressing on simple green salad with nectarines)
- chopped herbs like chives, chervil, mint, and/or parsley (mint is especially nice with citrus)
- a tablespoon of whole grain mustard
- a tablespoon of flaked nutritional yeast
- some honey
Add your seasonings and a couple of drops of water (no more than a teaspoon) and shake it all up together. I don't salt the salad until I dress it. And fresh, cracked pepper is the finishing touch.
Another technique foregoing combined dressings altogether is what my Italian aunt does:
Arrange lettuce in salad bowl. Sprinkle with salt. With thumb partially covering the opening to the vinegar bottle sprinkle wine vinegar carefully over salad. Toss well to combine, then add a little olive oil. Toss again, add pepper and serve. Her theory is that the vinegar dissolves the salt and allows it coats the lettuce. If you add oil first, the salt doesn't dissolve as well.
Or my mom's favorite:
Arrange lettuce in bowl. Squeeze lemon (preferably Meyer) over. Salt it and toss. Add a little olive oil and fresh, cracked pepper. Toss and serve.
See—no need for bottles!