You may not be surprised to discover that I think salads are a wonderful and quick addition to any meal (check out my previous blog for health benefits and ways to maximize nutrition for salads), as well as being a great way to use up produce. The thing that often keeps a salad from being the healthiest option is the salad dressing, since some dressings are quite high in sodium or sugar.
While there are quite a few healthy and tasty salad dressing options to be found in the grocery store (look for the Dietitians Choice tags for the easiest way to identify these), I almost always make my own dressing. I love that they are easy to make and that I can customize a dressing based on what I like (jalapeno and cilantro, anyone?) and what I feel will pair well with the particular salad I am making. If you have looked at salad dressings in the store, you may have noticed that most of the healthy options are vinaigrettes. I find vinaigrettes to also be the easiest salad dressings to make at home as they take very little equipment and are very forgiving. Some basic rules for making a vinaigrette include:
- Use 2 parts oil to one part acid (e.g. 2 tablespoons olive oil to 1 tablespoon vinegar)
- When using a mild acid, such as orange juice or balsamic vinegar, start with one part oil to one part acid and add more oil as needed
- Add herbs and fruit to add fresh flavor, nutrition, and reduce calories per serving
- Choose an oil for flavor as well as health benefits such as olive oil for monounsaturated fats, sunflower or safflower oil for vitamin E, or canola oil for Omega 3 fat
Other Uses for Vinaigrettes – Marinating vegetables prior to grilling – Adding to grain based salads – Using instead of mayonnaise on a sandwich
What is your favorite homemade salad dressing? What other uses have you found for vinaigrettes? Looking for some recipes to start? Check out the great recipes below provided by Harmons Cooking School Chef Kimberly Larsen.
- 5 fresh figs, stems removed
- 2 tablespoons honey wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh herbs
- Place all ingredients except oil into blender. Blend on medium until combined and the figs are lightly pureed. With machine going, slowly pour in the olive oil just until dressing comes together (you may not need all of the olive oil).
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup fresh lime juice and zest from the limes
- ½ bunch of cilantro
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon minced chipotle in adobo sauce
- Combine all ingredients, except olive oil, in blender and puree until smooth.
- Slowly drizzle in olive oil until mixture emulsifies.