In Season: Dress yourself

Forget the bottles: Do-it-yourself salad dressings simply taste better.

salad dressing 311 (photo credit: MCT)
salad dressing 311
(photo credit: MCT)
I was weaned on bottled dressings poured over iceberg lettuce salads. During the 1970s, salad bars were all the rage, but despite the addition fried chow mein noodles, broccoli tufts and showers of sunflower seeds, the dressings were less than imaginative and heavy enough to drown even the sturdiest romaine.
In the 1980s ranch was the rage, and the pickiest of my friends started asking for dressing on the side. When I started buying my own groceries, I bought fancier jarred dressings in search of better flavors to adorn my boutique salad greens.
As a newlywed, I received a copy of a cookbook by the Colorado Junior League entitled Creme de Colorado Cookbook.
After taking my first tentative steps at bringing salads to potlucks, I dutifully began to write down the responses to each salad and its respective dressing in the book.

More recently I began to realize that it wasn’t the salads per se that were winning raves – it was the dressing. Sure, it helped that the underlying salad had evolved to a sophisticated spring mix of lettuces with richer colors and flavors.
Today I still rely heavily on five go-to dressing recipes from the Creme cookbook.
I have found that these recipes work on just about any salad I whip up using ingredients I have pulled out of the refrigerator and pantry. If I were banished to a desert island, I would add an Asian inspired recipe as well, but otherwise these pretty much have me covered.
I put the dressings into heavy rotation for two weeks at the holidays when we had family visiting from Brazil. At the end of their stay, my nephew said the thing he would miss most about the meals I prepared were the nightly salads.
To my taste buds, homemade vinaigrettes taste better than store-bought dressings with lots of emulsifiers and preservatives, sodium and sugar. Most of these homemade dressings will last three to five days in the refrigerator.
Makes about 1 cup
This vinaigrette is robust and works with a lettuce salad garnished with antipasto ingredients such as artichoke hearts, olives, chickpeas, red onion and slices of pepperoni.
✔ 6 Tbsp. virgin olive oil
✔ 21⁄2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
✔ 2 Tbsp. chili sauce
✔ 11⁄2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
✔ 1 clove garlic, minced
✔ 11⁄2 tsp. minced fresh parsley
✔ 1 tsp. dried oregano
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. sugar
✔ 1⁄4 tsp. salt
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
✔ 1 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional) In a blender, mix all ingredients until well combined.
Makes 112⁄ cups
I have no idea why the directions for this recipe are so resolute.
Could I add the mustard after the heavy cream? Oh, who am I to argue with chemistry that works? This salad dressing is simply decadent. I once served it on a spinach salad.
✔ 2 hard-boiled eggs, mashed with a fork while still warm
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. salt
✔ 11⁄2 tsp. sugar
✔ 1 Tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper
✔ 1 clove garlic, crushed
✔ 1⁄2 cup virgin olive oil
✔ 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
✔ 5 Tbsp. cream
✔ 1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar One at a time and in order, thoroughly blend all other ingredients into mashed eggs.
Do not substitute. When blended, whisk until smooth.
Makes about 12⁄ cup
This recipe reminds me of spring, and I frequently serve it on a spinach salad. Since there are so few ingredients, be sure to buy the best raspberry vinegar and jam you can afford.
✔ 2 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar
✔ 2 Tbsp. raspberry jam
✔ 1⁄3 cup vegetable oil Combine vinegar and jam in blender or small bowl. Add oil in a thin stream, blending well.
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