I grew up having a side salad for dinner every night no matter what else was served and my grandmother and mother always made their own dressing. As an adult I started buying store-bought dressings, but was never really satisfied. Most of the time I find them to be too fussy and I hate the laundry list of ingredients that go along with them. So when my sister came to visit last December and whipped up an amazing olive oil and vinegar dressing I was convinced it was time to make my own again. I had forgotten how incredible fresh dressings taste and how simple they are to prepare.
Making quick and simple dressings is common in Mediterranean cuisine and I’m sure is one of those things passed down in my family’s Southern Italian heritage. The trick is keeping it simple. All you need is a good olive oil and vinegar, a pinch of salt and you’re done. My family are a brave bunch and drizzle the ingredients directly into the salad greens and toss. I’m too much of a wimp for that so I use a small bowl and whisk my ingredients until I have the right flavor. Maybe with more practice I’ll be able to dump it right in as well…we’ll see!
Simple dressings keep your salad on the healthy side since you’re getting the health benefits of the olive oil and vinegar plus all the greens and other vegetables you add to your salad. You’re also assuring that you have fresh ingredients compared to keeping a pre-made version in the refrigerator for months. You can essentially use just three ingredients so I suggest going the extra mile to get really high quality olive oils and vinegars. This makes a big difference in taste. Yes…it can be more pricey, but still less expensive than buying store-bought dressings. You use less and there is no waste from dressings sitting past their expiration date in the refrigerator.
Once I started making my own I discovered that Birdie loves my salads. I never thought of giving my kids salad as I thought it would be tough for them to chew. One day she requested a bite of mine and now she consistently wants half of my salad and nibbles on the lettuce leaves like a rabbit. Pretty cool for a 2-year old!
Here’s my simple dressing
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Whisk all ingredients in bowl and drizzle on salad to taste
Now, if you’re thinking you might get bored with this…you can change the flavor in many different ways.
- Change up your vinegar by replacing the balsamic with white wine, red wine, or raspberry vinegars. Be adventurous…one of my very favorites is a fig-infused vinegar which makes the best dressing!
- Buy flavor infused olive oils like garlic infused or orange infused. I love the garlic olive oil from Temecula Olive Oil Company. They have a ton of interesting varieties. Full disclosure…I am not paid by them for any endorsements…just a big fan!
- Add some citrus like lemon juice (works well with a white wine vinegar base)
- Add some fresh herbs you have on hand
- Crush some raw garlic or sprinkle a little garlic powder in the mix
Make sure to experiment with your own pallate. You may like less vinegar or more so prepare yourself to give it a couple runs to see what works for you. Once you start making your own you’ll never want to go back to store-bought again!