Healthy Eating/ Recipes/ Salads, Soups & Starters/ Vegetarian

Salad 101 – The Basic Salad Dressing

By now you should have bought, washed & mixed your salad together. The next step is deciding on the dressing and with most salad greens this is usually a type of Vinaigrette.

A vinaigrette consists three things – a good oil, acid (vinegar or lemon/lime juice) and seasonings which is combined with a chemical process known as emulsification to form a beautiful creamy dressing.
Following are basic dressings, with a few variations based on the type of salad greens that you decide to use. The standard ratio of oil to acid for a dressing is three parts oil to one part acid. For mild salad greens, a basic dressing of oil, acid & seasoning will work, however, for spicier salad greens like rocket or baby spinach, stronger flavors like mustard, garlic, onions along with some cream/yoghurt are required to complement the taste of the greens. 

But again, I will repeat the same thing – adjust the dressing based on your own preferences, and what is available in the fridge. I will be posting some recipes for salads in the future, and in almost all the recipes, I have used less oil and more yoghurt because I think the taste of extra virgin olive oil can be strong, so I would reduce from the basic recipe. Similarly, there are a number of additions and substitutions that can be made. Have included a list of basic recipes along with a list of simple additions in the end for experimenting with. 
Basic Vinaigrette for Mild Salad Greens
(Makes about 3/4 cup)
 1/2 cup olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
3 tbsp vinegar (or lemon juice); or use 1.5 tbsp lemon juice and 1.5 tbsp vinegar
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Sugar/Honey – 1 tsp (optional)
Method:
1. Depending on type of greens used, combine all ingredients in a blender for about 30 seconds till a creamy emulsion results. You can also add all the ingredients in a bottle, and then shake vigorously or add the ingredients in a bowl and use a wire whisk to mix. 
2. Taste the dressing and adjust vinegar/lemon juice or seasonings if required.
3. Use 1 tbsp of dressing for about 2 cups of salad greens.
Basic Vinaigrette for Spicy Salad Greens
1/2 cup olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
3 tbsp vinegar (or lemon juice); or use 1.5 tbsp lemon juice and 1.5 tbsp vinegar
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Mustard – 1 tsp
Sugar/Honey – 1 tsp
Minced Garlic – 1/2 tsp (optional)
Method:
1. Depending on type of greens used, combine all ingredients in a blender for about 30 seconds till a creamy emulsion results. You can also add all the ingredients in a bottle, and then shake vigorously or add the ingredients in a bowl and use a wire whisk to mix. 
2. Taste the dressing and adjust vinegar/lemon juice or seasonings if required.
3. Use 1 tbsp of dressing for about 2 cups of salad greens.
 
Basic Vinaigrette for Bitter Salad Greens
1/2 cup olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
3 tbsp vinegar (or lemon juice); or use 1.5 tbsp lemon juice and 1.5 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp yoghurt or cream
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Mustard – 1 tsp
Sugar/Honey – 1 tsp
Minced Garlic – 1/2 tsp (optional)
Method:
1. Depending on type of greens used, combine all ingredients in a blender for about 30 seconds till a creamy emulsion results. You can also add all the ingredients in a bottle, and then shake vigorously or add the ingredients in a bowl and use a wire whisk to mix. 
2. Taste the dressing and adjust vinegar/lemon juice or seasonings if required.
3. Use 1 tbsp of dressing for about 2 cups of salad greens.

Other Simple Additions to Vinaigrettes:
The above dressings are base recipes, but you can always make additions/substitutions to them based on ingredient availability & your own taste. Sometimes I would add some lemon zest, or fresh herbs, or minced roasted garlic to leftover dressing just to change the taste. 

  1. Herbs: Herbs can be added either fresh or dried to the dressing. If using fresh, then you can add about 1/4 cup of finely chopped mild herbs like parsley, basil or oregano for 1/2 cup of olive oil. If using stronger herbs like rosemary, tarragon or thyme then use about 1 teaspoon. If using dried herbs, then start with adding 1/8 teaspoon, and then add more if required. 
  2. Fresh Garlic: Garlic flavor can be incorporated in three different ways depending on how strong you want it to be. If you want a stronger flavor, then you can mince/finely chop fresh garlic and add it in the dressing. Secondly, you can roast garlic in the oven which turns the flavor mild and sweeter. Thirdly, you can rub a mashed garlic clove around your salad bowl which will just give you a mild garlic flavor. 
  3. Honey, maple syrup or sugar: If you want the dressing to be a bit sweet, you can add sweetener of your sugar. Start off small, 1-2 teaspoon for sugar & 1 tablespoon for honey, and then adjust more based on taste.
  4. Mustard: 1 teaspoon of good quality mustard, or 1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard can be added.
  5. Lemon Zest/Orange Zest: Zest of 1 lemon can be added for a lemon vinaigrette, making sure that you use lemon or lime juice for the dressing as well. Orange zest combined with fresh orange juice can also be used.
  6. Creamy Vinaigrette: Fresh or sour cream, yoghurt or mayonnaise can be used (about 3 tablespoon). Fresh cream is preferred over packaged as that has a much better flavor. 
  7. Soy Sauce: Add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce to give an Asian flavor to salads; best if used with Asian vegetables like spring onions, Bak Choi etc. 

Where to get Salad Greens in Karachi:

Sungold Organic – Home delivery of Organic Vegetables

Sungold number, 0342-2382731, 0345-2008247:
Growing your Own – Seeds available from Crops in Pots & available from Mom’s Garden

Shops – Assortment of vegetables can be found from Agha’s, Farids, Hyperstar, Empress Market, Defence Sunday Bazaar, & a ‘Sabzi Wala’ near French Bakery at Khadda Market
 
Reference Books:

How to Cook Everything (Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition
The New Best Recipe by Cooks Illustrated Magazine

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