Friday, May 27, 2011

Queen of Salads: How to Make Homemade Dressings

Salad from the garden
And so it is, I've become the Queen of Salads. And mine, at the heart of all of them, are vegetables. I feel bad for many salads, forced to be made with limp lifeless lettuce and bottled dressing chock full of preservatives and other names you can't pronounce. My salads are nothing like that. Because, again, I'm Queen of Salads.

the new cabbage salad: don't say coleslaw

Salads offer gads of room for creativity. Mixing of greens–spinach, lettuce, arugula, kale—you can take your pick of greens. Add in whatever is fresh and in season, perhaps green onions, cherry tomatoes, blanched asparagus, sweet peppers, shredded carrots. If you want some protein, garbanzo beans or roasted chicken, for example. Think about flavor profiles, like greek: greens, cucumbers, red onion, olives, parsley, feta; or mexican: greens (cabbage), tomatoes, green onions, cilantro, pickled onions, black beans, jalapeno-stuffed olives (my favorite!). The options are endless. But then you make the dressing.....

Mexican salad dressing:
Mix salsa with plain greek yogurt.

Herbal creamy salad dressing:
Take a handful of herbs (cilantro or basil or parsley), and in a food processor, process with 1-2 cloves of garlic. Add in 1-2 cups of plain greek yogurt. Combine. With food processor running, drizzle in olive oil until it becomes a consistency you can work with. I like it pretty thick (less oil), season with plenty of salt and pepper. You can also add some freshly squeezed lime or lemon if you'd like a little tang to it. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for several days, and serve as great dip for fresh veggies or on more salads.

My balsamic go-to salad dressing:
In a small bowl, combine one crushed garlic clove, a pinch of good salt, a few grinds of fresh pepper, 1 Tablespoon honey, 1 Tablespoon of dijon mustard, 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. Whisk together. While whisking, drizzle in olive oil (about 1/4-1/2 cup), combining all ingredients well. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. Chopped fresh basil can also be added to this dressing for added deliciousness.

Flavored vinegars (champagne vinegar is a favorite) and oils (blood orange infused olive oil is also a favorite) are fun to play with. It's almost strawberry season and that means strawberry vinegar in our household.

As for the Queen of Salads? I'm looking forward to the glut of spring and summer produce, and the ability to eat so much of it raw and in salads this year. As this is my year of intention, I've been following through on my commitments to myself, and that has meant embracing the salad and dropping the baggage. Meaning, dropping weight. Oh I've dropped it all right. A lot of it:

The first rose from the garden this year

And while salads are but one bit of that bigger picture, using my creativity in the kitchen for super fresh and healthy, simple approaches has been key.

Now go make yourself some salad dressing. It's about 100 times better than that crap that comes in a bottle.


brittney said...

I totally agree! I never by salad dressing and always make my own. LOVE your beautiful purple and green mixture of lettuces. What is that gorgeous, dark purple, lacy green? Is it a type of mustard? I need to add it to my garden. Congrats on sticking to your intentions. You look great!

Gretchen said...

God Save the Queen

small town dyke said...

You look great! And you look So happy! Love the salads!

Heather said...

Oh yum! My family started making our own dressings after a trip to France where we discovered everyone made their own right there at the table!

However, there is also something to be said for a purely Midwestern guilty pleasure on occasion, Dorothy Lynch Salad Dressing - bright orange with brown flecks, made proudly in Columbus, Nebraska, with the number one ingredient being tomato soup. I'm not kidding - I just checked the bottle in my fridge! :)

And you look fab!!

Anonymous said...

You are beautiful. Hugs, Mom

Paula said...

I can honestly say that I never buy bottled salad dressing.

It helps to mix up salad dressing in advance to give the flavors a chance to marry and develop...I've found, anyway.

I never thought of mixing salsa and yogurt together- I'll have to try that one!

Best Wishes, Marie said...

the shorter hair is very flattering. love the inspirational salads. love slaws, but they are often too sweet and miss the boat of why i am eating that and not a burger. not more than an hour ago, i was wishing i had a great slaw dressing recipe. and .... LeLo was there for me.

KelseyP said...

You look AHMAZING! Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing your salad smarts. God knows I need to change up my routine, as I'm also on the salads all the time diet.

Wacky Mommy said...

Dang, girl!

Laguna Dirt said...

you look quite svelte! way to go! thanks for the salad dressing ideas. i get in a rut, and these are some fun variations!

Heather said...

We made the creamy herbal dressing last night and loved it. I may never go back to vinaigrette. :)

Get Real Chris said...

I ditched the bottled stuff for good about 2 years ago. Even though its more work to whip up homemade dressings, I find that we eat more salads now than ever. I'm definitely going to check out you recipes.

Anonymous said...

New to your site but love it! The only dressing I buy is an asian style one that I can't begin to figure out how to make. Any suggestions? It's seems like it's sesame-ish, ginger-ish, soy-ish and on the sweet side.

Sarah at Mr. Food said...

Lelo, I enjoyed your homemade salad dressings, especially the easy Mexican salad dressing. Can't wait to try out your go-to balsamic! Thanks for sharing, I included you in our blog roundup:
All the best,
Sarah at Mr.