My absolute simple is a daily vinegarette - 2 T orange juice, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 T EVO, 1 T red wine vinegar. My husband likes a lemon poppy seed dressing for a salad I make in the winter of romaine, swiss cheese, cashews, apples, pears, dried cranberries. I have a sweet tomato and celery seed dressing, like a French. I think the hardest part is just assembling all the ingredients but I have a well organized spice shelf. My daily vinegarette is modified by using homemade herb vinegars.
On this idea, I really enjoy Deborah Madison's creamy shallot vinaigrette. The technique is the same as Eclectic Eater's suggestion -- let one diced shallot hang out in 2 Tbsp vinegar for 15 minutes. In this version, then add a few Tbsp fresh herbs, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, about 3 1/2 Tbsp fresh chopped herbs, a couple of Tbsp something creamy (sour cream, creme fraiche). This is delicious and I like to vary the herbs or vinegar for a slightly different dressing every time. Letting the shallot sit in the vinegar will sweeten the flavor.
I made a ranch dressing from a recipezaar website.Bought Suddenly Salad with ranch and bacon powder. Made the noodle with my own recipe for macaroni salad. Took the ranch and bacon powder and added it to my ranch dressing. DH is always asking for my ranch dressing for his salads.
This soy balsamic dressing from this Vegan Lunchbox blog post makes a nice change of pace with a spinach salad:
I also like to sautee mushrooms in olive oil with some shallots and a sliced garlic clove. Cool and mix in some lemon juice or white wine vinegar and then toss them with your greens - or mix them in still hot with chopped escarole for a wilted salad (in this case, just use the pale inner heart of the escarole, and save the tougher outer leaves for braising).
Blended Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
4 Tbs Marukan Seasoned Gourmet Rice Vinegar (or other seasoned rice vinegar)
2 Tbs Red Wine Vinegar
1-3/4 Tbs Balsamic Vinegar
3-1/2 Tbs Olive Oil
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Add ingredients to a jar with lid. Seal jar and
shake well to blend.
Makes about 3/4 cup.
My fave, everyday salad dressing is shallot vinaigrette. 2T red wine or balsamic vinegar, 1T dijon mustard, 1T diced shallot, 1/2 cup olive oil, s&p to taste.
I also like this southwestern vinaigrette: 2tsp chili powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp cumin, 2T cider vinegar, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, 1/4 cup spicy ketchup, 1 1/2T honey, 1/4 cup olive oil and s&p to taste. Mash garlic w/ salt to a paste. All all other ingredients.
I make this dressing to serve over a cucumber/tomato/feta salad (sorry the quantities are a little inexact... I usually just add things, taste, add some more, taste again etc. until it tastes good to me):
1 - 2 cloves crushed garlic
juice of one or two lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
fresh oregano, thyme, mint, and/or basil
I make the Bittman minced onion dressing alot (though I usually use shallots), but here's another one that I do when I'm really rushed, and we're just having a basic side salad. I don't even measure, actually, and the entire process takes just a minute longer than opening a bottle of the store bought junk.
2T lemon juice or balsamic or rice vinegar
fresh ground pepper
pinch of salt
spoonful of mustard (dijon or honey) - probably about 2t-3t
clove of garlic, crushed or chopped in half
1T fresh herbs (whatever is on hand, though basil and thyme are my favs - usually minced though sometimes i just rip them up)
3T olive oil
3T vegetable oil
Mix well and serve. I don't even stream in the oil, as the mustard helps emuslify the dressing.
A couple of classic pointers that you can riff on to your heart's content:
1. Shallots improve everything. Mince a shallot clove and marinate for 15 minutes or so in your vinegar or lemon juice before combining with everything else.
2. Salt is necessary. Two basic approaches: either salt the salad greens first (where residual moisture will start the dissolving process) or dissolve in the vinegar or lemon juice first.
3. Vinegar: a lot of Americans use way too much. Ratio should be 1:3 or 1:4 to oil. If you want more vinegar, consider cutting it with sherry or muscatel vinegar or lemon juice. The result will be less harsh and more complex.
4. Oil: Be careful about using a powerful EVOO full strength - it's a mismatch for many lettuces. Taste the oil on a naked piece of green first, and judge how well it matches. If too strong, cut up to half the EVOO with a neutral vegetable oil. The same goes for nut oils that are classic in salad (like walnut oil).
5. Emulsifiers - if you want a more emulsified French-style vinaigrette (as opposed to the Italian anti-emulsification approach, where oil is applied to the salted leaves first before acids are added, to protect the leaves), mustard is classic, but you can also make a little slurry of a bit of potato starch too, also a French kitchen trick/truc.
I just discovered (and can't get enough of) this super simple creamy dressing.
All it is is Mayonnaise, garlic (minced), salt, pepper, lemon/lime juice, Parmesan cheese, and milk or 1/2 & 1/2. I don't keep tabs on measurements, and do everything to taste- about a little over a cup of cheese for every cup of mayo, one or two garlic cloves, and about one lemon/lime, with just enough milk product to thin when needed. Basically I mix the first six ingredients until smooth (adding a little olive oil for taste and thinning if needed) and then add just a little half and half.
What I love about it is how fast and utterly customizable it is.
I like it by itself, but I've been thinking up new experimental versions adding anchovies and Worcestershire sauce (for a more Ceaser-y taste), maybe horseradish or wasabi another time (for a little kick), and maybe another with chopped olives and feta for a smooth greek dressing.
I like to make my own blue cheese with half mayo, half sour cream (or yogurt), add crumbled cheese, garlic and spice.
I also like to add some of those spicy, fruity marinades to mayo for slaw dressings. Like Brono Bob's Mango Chipotle sauce, etc.
Also, totally healthy dressing base is to puree roasted red peppers as a start...and add away to your heart's content to spice it up.
I mix together mustard and honey, at about a one to one ratio, but it depends on how spicy your mustard is and how sweet or spicy you want it. Then, I whisk in some worcestershire and apple cider vineger or red wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper, then drizzle and whisk in oil. I like the honey and mustard flavor, but this keeps it a vinaigrette.