Best Dressed: The Secret to Better Salads
We pile on the greens, veggies, fruit, seeds and nuts, hoping to get the most nutrients possible from our salads, but a dose of dressing can tip the scales in the wrong direction, adding unhealthy fats as well as unwanted chemicals. And although fat levels may differ (sorry, fat-free, but we’re looking at you!), most bottled salad dressings you find on supermarket shelves are generally loaded with additives, thickeners and preservatives.
The good news is you can whip up a healthy homemade version of your favorite dressing with just a handful of real ingredients—ones you can actually pronounce! These recipes are easy to make and call for items you probably have on hand. And not only are they better for you, they taste better, too.
A simple oil- and vinegar-based dressing allows the flavors of the salad ingredients to shine through. Start with the 3:1 ratio: 3 parts oil to 1 part acid will yield a balanced blend to top your leafy greens. Customize by using different vinegars, such as champagne vinegar or sherry vinegar, and include freshly chopped herbs or shallots for a zesty flavor infusion. Adding a small amount of Dijon mustard will boost the flavor as well as help emulsify the dressing. (Don’t worry if it’s a little on the tart side—once it’s mixed with the salad, it will have just the right amount of tang.) Be sure to whisk your mixture together until it no longer appears separated and serve immediately. Otherwise, store your vinaigrette in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Remember, it’s normal for the dressing to naturally separate over time, so simply give it a whisk just before serving.
HEALTHIER HONEY MUSTARD
Always a hit on salad, a drizzle of this sweet and tangy dressing will also amp up many entrées or sides—chicken, salmon, potatoes, garlic toast—you name it! Simply whisk together 1/2 cup Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons honey, 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 teaspoon rice vinegar or lemon juice. Store leftovers for about a week.
A creamy all-natural ranch-style dressing comes together with a few basic ingredients: 1/2 cup mayo, 1/3 cup sour cream and 1 cup buttermilk. From there you can build your own flavor by adding fresh dill, chopped parsley, chopped chives, salt and pepper and about 1 tablespoon vinegar. Shake in a bit of onion or garlic powder for more zip. Mix thoroughly and let it chill in the fridge for 1 hour before serving. Refrigerate leftover dressing—it should last about a week.
LOOK BEYOND THE GREENS SCENE
- Try any of these dressings on a homemade coleslaw by mixing shredded carrots and cabbage with sunflower seeds, raisins and a touch of lemon juice.
- Give your pasta salad a makeover by tossing whole wheat fusilli, asparagus, feta cheese, olives, fresh basil and chopped tomatoes with your homemade vinaigrette.
- Instead of using mayo to mix up your famous potato salad, give it an extra-special touch by using your homemade ranch dressing instead.
- To help speed up the emulsification process when mixing salad dressings, use a blender or food processor.
If mixing your dressing with a whisk, use a glass or stainless steel bowl, not aluminum. Acids in the dressing can mix with the aluminum, giving a metallic taste to your dressing.
- Do the lettuce taste test: Pour a small amount of dressing into a bowl or measuring cup. Dip a piece of lettuce into the dressing and give it a try. This will give you a better idea of how your mixture will taste once it’s mixed with greens.
- Store leftover dressing in the fridge in appropriately sized containers like the Snapware®
Total Solution™ food storage containers. Less room for air means they’ll stay fresher longer.
Still worried about the fat in the oil? If you’ve been cruising along on the fat-free bandwagon, jump off! We’re learning more all the time about how we need fat in our diets for our bodies to thrive. Monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil, improves cholesterol and may help keep insulin at healthy levels. Plus, a recent study from Purdue University published in the journal of Molecular Nutrition & Food Research revealed that monounsaturated fat actually helps the body absorb even more nutrients. But like most things, portion control is key, so when it comes to dressing, go for a drizzle, not a downpour!
YOUR TURN: Do you have a favorite homemade salad dressing recipe? Please share!