Have you heard about “capsules”? If you are a Pinterest fan or follow the fashion world, “capsule” wardrobes are the BIG buzz. To be honest, I don’t think this is all so new, but, hey, I’ve been around a while. The concept of a capsule wardrobe is to begin with five or six basic pieces of clothing and build a wardrobe with some accessories and creativity. Goals include saving you time, money and stress. But why am I talking about clothing? I’m not really. I’m talking about homemade salad dressing.
Ok, let me explain. When I served my beet salad a few weeks ago, I was asked to share the recipe, and, of course, I was happy to and that led to the post earlier this week. But I also got another fairly familiar question that comes up whenever I serve a salad: “Where did you buy the dressing?” or “What brand of dressing is this?” or (once I tell them the dressing is homemade) “Can I buy something like this at the store.” The answer is no: no I did not buy it; no there is no brand to look for; and no you really cannot buy in a bottle anything comparable to what you can create fresh yourself.
There is a pervasive misconception, I think, that homemade dressings are a) time-consuming to prepare, b) require expensive and/or exotic ingredients, c) are messy and inconvenient. All of these ideas are wrong.
A basic capsule wardrobe for salad dressing contains three components: a fat, an acid and seasonings. Taken to its prime combination: oil, vinegar and salt and pepper.
Further, there are really only two skills needed to make basic, fresh-tasting dressing: chopping and whisking. (If you have a food processor, you’ve synched these without even trying.)
However, it is true that quality ingredients are key, so you may spend a bit more money on your olive oil, for instance. You may splurge for fresh lemons or a respectable balsamic vinegar. But you will gain back not only amazingly fresh flavor, but also will save money (Ever priced a halfway decent bottle of dressing?), save calories (because you will use fewer ingredients and far less dressing on your salad to achieve a better flavor) and save your health (Ever read the label on a bottle of dressing? With few exceptions, they are loaded with sugar, hydrogenated fat, sodium, gluten, GMOs and high fructose corn syrup.)
Here are three basic dressings that follow the capsule rule and some “accessories” to round out your wardrobe with sweetness, complexity of flavor and nutrients. Each is followed by a salad suggestion:
- Fat: one-half cup olive oil
- Acid: one half cup apple cider vinegar
- Seasonings: sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Accessorize with one teaspoon Dijon mustard and/or a spoonful of honey
Put your vinegar and your seasoning and desired accessories in a bowl or a food processor and whisk/process to thoroughly combine. While continually whisking, add your oil in a steady small stream to create a stable emulsion. If using a processor, run on low speed and stream in the oil through the feed tube. Once the emulsion is stable, about a minute or so, it’s good to go.
Serve this dressing atop a salad of mixed greens, allowing it to wilt slightly. Maybe add a fresh tomato and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Non-vegetarians can add grilled chicken, which could be marinated in the very same dressing with the addition of a crushed clove of garlic and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
- Fat: one half cup flaxseed or hempseed oil (or a mixture of the two)
- Acid: one-half cup fresh lemon juice
- Seasonings: two cloves of minced fresh garlic, one teaspoon seaweed flakes (such as kelp or dulse), freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Accessorize with a dash low-sodium tamari and your favorite dried or fresh herbs
Chop your garlic and fresh herbs by hand or let your processor do the work. Add your lemon juice, your oil (Flax and hemp oils are not as touchy to incorporate as olive oil, I have found.) and accessories, whisking continually or running your processor on low until fully emulsified.
Serve this atop a farm-to-table garden salad that features fresh-picked produce, anything from micro greens, cabbage and kale to tomatoes, bell peppers and diced mini zucchini. Choose your favorites.
- Fat: one-half cup olive oil
- Acid: one-quarter cup red wine vinegar and two tablespoons lemon juice
- Seasonings: one teaspoon each minced fresh tarragon and oregano, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Accessorize with one clove garlic, minced and/or one tablespoon honey
For preparation, follow the steps for Classic Vinaigrette.
Serve this atop a sturdy green salad that pairs steamed or boiled market potatoes with black olives, red onion, artichoke hearts and some goat cheese crumbles. Vegetarians might add a hard-cooked egg for protein. Not vegetarian? Sure, add bacon.
So it really is a lot simpler than you might have thought. Still not liking the idea of creating a dressing every time you plan a salad? Well… don’t. These dressings will keep in your frig anywhere from five to 10 days. It’s easy to double the quantities. And you now have your “bottled dressing” ready to go but better…. SO much better in taste and in nutrition.
Stay tuned; we’ll keep exploring your wardrobe options for a well-dressed salad, season by season. It will be easy to shop local, eat healthy and be ever-brave in the kitchen.