If you’ve been checking out my posts, you know I keep returning to certain themes: Thrift in the kitchen. Eating real food. Preparing food yourself so you know what’s in it.
So in this season of salads and cold dishes — and especially for the picnic-happy holiday that is July 4 — I wanted to bring you a recipe that hits all those notes.
It’s a simple recipe for an oil- and vinegar-based salad dressing (not the kind of white salad dressing that comes in jars). Every week when I shop for my groceries, I pass rows of bottled dressings. Reading their ingredients, I see artificial ingredients aplenty. And they cost aplenty, too — $5, $6, $7 a bottle.
But you can make a perfectly good Italian dressing with ingredients already in your pantry for much less money and about 15 minutes of work.
If you have a large screw-top jar, mix it in that, or do as I do and use a plastic container like the ones that come with premixed powdered dressing. (Don’t judge me; we all had to start somewhere.)
The basic ingredients for a sturdy vinaigrette are oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and perhaps some chopped herbs. This dressing adds a few more ingredients, but feel free to vary it. As long as you have the basics, everything works.
Try different oils; change out the herbs and spices; use fruit juice or wine for all or part of the vinegar. When I finish a jar of pickles, olives or marinated vegetables, I often save the liquid to use in this salad dressing. (See? Thrifty.)
Also, think beyond tossed green salads. Use this dressing instead of mayo on your next potato salad, pasta salad, coleslaw or chopped vegetable salad. Drizzle it over cooked fish; try it on cooked broccoli, cauliflower, beets — you get the idea.
This recipe started with one from Better Homes and Gardens, but I adapted it to suit my taste and circumstances. (I cut the sugar and salt, used chipotle pepper instead of the white pepper it called for, etc.) Try to keep the dry mustard; it’s what helps the dressing emulsify when you shake it up.
Play with the recipe, and I hope that you’ll find it as versatile as I do. And Happy Fourth!
LAURA’S ITALIAN DRESSING
1 1/3 cups salad oil, or a mix of salad oil and olive oil
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle or black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Combine all ingredients in screw-top jar or other bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Cover; shake well to mix. Refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving and shake again. Makes about 1 3/4 cups.
Here is another from my BH&G cookbook you might want to try:
RED WINE DRESSING
1 cup salad oil
1/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic
In screw-top jar, combine ingredients. Cover and shake well to mix. Refrigerate. Remove garlic clove; shake dressing again just before serving. Makes 1 2/3 cups.
(c) copyright 2016 Laura Groch