After indulging in all the baked goods and big holiday meals, I have been in pursuit of leafy greens in these January days. I saw a sign today at Whole Foods Market that says, "This year I want to eat more plants". I like that goal. I love goal-setting in January- I think I might add this one to my list. I like salad, though I typically prefer it at a restaurant rather than at home. There are several salads at restaurants that I really, really like. I actually crave them. I think the difference in salads at home and at restaurants is the dressing. I am always trying to de-code dressings when I am out to eat- trying to discern ingredients, seasonings, methods so I can come home and try to re-create them.
Do you ever make homemade dressing?
They are cheaper, fresher, preservative-less, made-to-your-liking, and lighter (if you wish). I have found some of my favorites in Everyday Food Magazines. I find homemade dressing makes a significant difference in my feelings about salad.
My favorite green salads are Greek and ones with fruit and nuts on them. In the summer I make strawberry and mango salads all the time, and in the fall and winter I top my green salad with slices of fresh pear and dried cranberries. The ONLY thing challenging about this salad is toasting the nuts. I burn them frequently! Do you have this issue when you toast nuts? I stick them in the toaster oven and it seems like they are raw until the 5 seconds that they burn! So, you must watch them very closely. I must say they are worth it though- so buttery and crunchy. YUM!
Here’s my recipe:
Lettuce (I like a combo of green leaf and spinach)
Crumbled Feta Cheese (a little feta goes a long way in flavor)
Toasted Pecan halves or pieces
Sliced pear or apple
A handful of dried cranberries
Red onion, thinly sliced (optional)
I've included two of my favorite Vinaigrettes. Take your pick- one is balsamic vinaigrette, the other a sweet vinaigrette. I love them both...OR get creative! Basically if you have oil and vinegar (or lemon juice) and seasoning, you have the basics for a dressing. You can add sugar or honey for sweetness; herbs: rosemary, basil, cilantro; garlic, salt and pepper for flavor. You can use balsamic vinegar, apple cider or flavored vinegar. Play around and make it to your liking.
My friend Rich was telling me last week that lately he has been making a lemon dressing by whisking up the juice and zest of a lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper. I tried it yesterday and it was a tasty, zippy, quick dressing!
What are your favorite homemade dressings?
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp mustard, Dijon or I love Nance’s Sharp and Creamy Mustard (thanks, Melissa for introducing us)
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup water
½ tsp. coarse salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
½ cup olive oil
Pour all of the ingredients (except for oil) into a blender and blend until smooth, then stream in the olive oil and blend until creamy.
The blending creates a creamy, emulsified consistency.
½ cup oil
½ cup sugar (or less)
½ cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. pepper
Pour all ingredients into a jar and shake well.