Happy D.I.Y. Friday! This is our occasional blog series in which we D.I.Y. a basic (sometimes naturally gluten free) recipe (like this, these homemade salad dressings) or other ingredient that you otherwise might be inclined to buy. Salad dressings make amazing marinades for chicken of every sort, and you can’t beat ’em for coaxing kids into eating vegetables of all kinds. Making my own salad dressings is something that I have done for years without ever buying a bottled dressing, and it’s not because I’m so diligent that I never ever take the easy way out. This is not a matter of virtue. It’s truly a matter of convenience. Let me explain!
Bottled salad dressings go bad, but you can only buy them in the quantities in which they’re sold. Even a simple bottled vinaigrette will go bad over time, and then you have to have it rattling around in the door of your refrigerator, mocking you every time you open and close that door. And I’m sure you knew this already but I’ll never forget the feeling when I learned that a basic vinaigrette is based upon the simplest of simple ratios: Oil 3:Acid 1. So….you can throw together as much or as little vinaigrette as you like, at any time. And it doesn’t even need to be refrigerated. I almost always use white balsamic vinegar from Trader Joe’s as my acid since it’s mild (almost a tiny bit sweet), and I add salt and pepper plus a tiny bit of honey because I find it balances out the whole thing perfectly. Moving on…
I’ve always loved ranch dressing, but I often find myself chasing the perfect texture and taste. If you ask me, this recipe nails it. Ranch dressing should not be super thick. It’s slightly sweet, slightly acidic, with just the right kick from finely minced garlic. This one needs to be refrigerated, but it’s thin enough that it should be pourable right out of the refrigerator. And it’s easy enough to make that you can throw it together on a weeknight. Yes, you can! Don’t have buttermilk? Try plain yogurt. And the best way to mince garlic super fine is to chop it with your favorite chef’s knife, and periodically press it into a paste with the flat side of the knife. Wanna make it even easier? Try adding a tiny bit of kosher salt as you’re chopping and pressing.
Okay Caesar dressing really should have a raw egg yolk in it. But you can still make a very authentic-tasting Caesar salad without the egg, because really who has raw pasteurized egg yolk lying around? Not me (well at least not usually). Instead of anchovy paste, I use either fish sauce (which is mostly anchovies) or Worcestershire sauce (which has anchovies) because, well, I just don’t keep anchovy paste on hand since my family doesn’t love it in everything. Except they don’t even know they’re eating it in this dressing. Suckers.
Finally, green goddess dressing. My absolute personal favorite. You can make it with flat-leaf parsley (curly-leaf parsley has practically no flavor!), or with basil. I really really prefer parsley here, since it doesn’t mask the rest of the flavors but just perks up the whole dressing and makes it taste super fresh. If you don’t have scallions on hand, leave them out but they do give some nice bite. And if you’re wondering why my scallions look kind of, well, icy, it’s because I store them in the freezer. Don’t you? ;)
So here you have them: the 4 most essential dressings. One you mix up just by shaking (vinaigrette), one just by whisking (ranch), and two by blending (Caesar and green goddess). All are exceedingly easy to make, and call for ingredients you have on hand already. Now finish up those bottles rattling around in your refrigerator door, and never buy dressing again.
One final thing: I’m kind of out of D.I.Y. Friday ideas. My site is getting a revamp (soon and it’s going to be responsive, too, and just you wait and see what it’s going to look like on your mobile!) and will have a recipe request form, but in the meantime please leave D.I.Y. Friday suggestions in the comments! The well is dry and I need your help!!