Store bought salad dressings contain a whole bunch of unnecessary ingredients to stabilize the mixture and make it look good-to-eat even after months in transit and sitting upon supermarket shelves. (Which makes sense, companies have to preserve the dressing and get it sold to make money, after all.)
But when you can whip up a tastier dressing fresh, using ingredients of your own choosing, why bother with a one-size-fits-all bottle containing economical oils and high-fructose corn syrup?
1) Start with 1 part good quality balsamic vinegar.
2) Add good quality olive oil.
Now, the commonly used ratio for vinaigrette is usually 3 parts oil : 1 vinegar.
You could probably do this with most kinds of (edible) oil and vinegar you have to hand, with the caveats that the worse quality your starting ingredients, the harsher the final result is likely to be.
I happen to like the tart aftertaste of my balsamic vinegar, and am less keen on drenching my vegetables in oil, so you may observe in the above picture that my personal ratio is a bit closer to 2 parts oil or even 1 part oil.
Remember, it’s all -to taste.-
Stir the thing up every now and then and lick your fork or spoon if you’re not SURE.
Only call the product “done” when you like it.
3) Add a sweetener to mellow things out if the vinaigrette is a little too harsh.
I blame all the commercial low-fat dressings I’ve eaten. I like dressings on the sweet side.
In this case, I’ve added a splash of maple syrup (maybe half a part?) because I like the taste.
(Yes, I know it’s sugar and carbs. Don’t judge! You decide for yourself how much you want to add.)
You could add brown sugar, white sugar, honey, or fancy schmancy agave nectar or whatever else people use to sweeten stuff.
By the way, you could stop at any point past step 2 and call it a vinaigrette already. The basic thing is an emulsion (or mixture) of oil and vingear, after all.
The following steps are about fancying things up and creating variants, in this case, a sort of faux “Asian” dressing:
4) Salt also balances out a vinaigrette.
We’re going Asian-style on this one, and I happen to have this bottle of Thai fish sauce in the fridge, so…
Instead of some salt, we add a few drops of fish sauce.
I stress the FEW, because fish sauce is awfully salty, do not get carried away with this.
You could also just use soy sauce (possibly needing more than a few drops) or salt, and tweak the taste thereof. (How about miso and make it reminiscent of Japan, for example?)
5) If you can take things spicy, those Asian-style dressings often have some kick to them, right?
What do you mean you don’t have a jar of homemade chili sauce just sitting in your fridge?
Ok, ok, I kid.
You probably don’t.
This is just one of our family’s staple condiments that also just happened to be lying around when I was looking for stuff to spice up the dressing one day. It’s the standard accompaniment to Hainanese chicken rice and I’ve randomly googled up some recipes here and here if you want to know more about the dish.
The ingredients may be harder to get your hands on in Western countries – try your local Asian grocer if you’re interested.
Our particular family’s mix uses the normal fresh red chilies in Singapore (which I cannot for the life of me figure out the name of the variety) and a small amount of bird’s eye chili or chili padi, which is very very hot. There’s garlic, ginger and the rind of a calamansi lime, and the whole thing is blended till it becomes a paste.
You could probably just chop a tiny amount of bird’s eye chili in there and get a similar amount of kick, or forgo the whole thing altogether.
Heck, just add pesto from a jar and make it a basil-garlic vinaigrette.
Or mustard for a mustard vinaigrette.
Or raspberry or strawberry jam for a sweeter berry-inspired vinaigrette.
Run wild. The sky’s the limit. Who wants dressing that tastes the same everyday?
So, anyhow, this is probably too much chili.
But, to taste, right?
We start the mixing…
…and if you observe closely, a spoon is not going to cut it here. The oil is not going to mix, and will likely just splash all over your table or counter instead.
Whisk away briskly and get the oil and vinegar and everything else to temporarily play nice and mix together.
Voila. Your very own DIY vinaigrette dressing.
Taste it and make sure you like it before you pour it all over your salad.
Worse case scenario, throw it out and start over. We’re working with mere spoonfuls here, these are minute quantities to waste until you get a combination you love. Then remember it or write it down, FOR SCIENCE and GOOD EATS!
As for the salad itself, it’s whatever you’ve got on hand. (Because we’re being lazy here and eating healthy should not involve so many dang steps that you give up on the salad assembly.)
In this case, the last of a bunch of baby spinach leaves of which I’d already gone through most of.
Some cherry tomatoes.
Honestly, if I wasn’t taking photographs, I’d just wash and toss the things in whole. Slicing them in half makes it -look- photogenic, but I feel sorry for the juice that gets lost on the chopping board. More fun chomping them open in the mouth, in my opinion.
Since the salad still looked a little sorry, enter more fridge rummaging.
Feel free to substitute mangoes, strawberries, melons, celery, chickpeas, whatever you like and have in your salad.
Enter lazy person tip number 2.
The IKEA Apple Slicer.
Mine’s the older version, and I linked to the Singapore store, but IKEA is a worldwide phenomenon, I’m sure you can find a similar utensil in your local IKEA store.
This thing takes away all your excuses to not eat apples.
Seriously. One press. Done.
Rinse the slicer and hang it up again.
If you’re lazy, just toss the slices into the bowl. No one will know. You’ll eat it all.
If you’re a little less lazy, especially when it comes to chewing, then spend a bit more time and chop the slices up a little more.
No one will know how crappy your knife skills are, unless you’re an idiot like me and post it for all the internet to see.
Add salad ingredients. Add vinaigrette dressing.
Enter lazy person tip #3.
The whole thing was assembled in a plastic takeaway box, complete with closeable lid.
I have no idea if this is culturally a thing anywhere else in the world, but in Singapore, you can find these containers anywhere and everywhere, and it’s a shame to use once and dispose. They can be washed and recycled a few times.
The more Western recipes seem to use Mason jars – which are maybe easier to get your hands on (Me, I’d probably break glass easily though.) You could use a Tupperware container or anything with a lid, or heck, improvise with a Ziploc bag or something.
Tossing with a fork and spoon is so passé, after all. The salad goes everywhere, you know?
Shake the heck out of the salad, letting the vinaigrette coat all the things.
If you can tolerate some wilting of the salad leaves and browning of the apple, you could even chuck it back in the fridge to eat later when the flavors have melded a little more and you’re done from a hard day or night’s gaming and don’t want to face cooking or prepping anything.
Or you can just pop open the lid and eat it now.
In theory, you could even go so far as to pour it back out on a plate and rearrange it so that it looks more photogenically appealing before consumption, but I dunno, I never quite got to that stage before I was spooning it out by the forkful.