A great way to make an ordinary salad stand out is to use a vinaigrette that brings depth and zing. We often fall into the trap of making the same few vinaigrettes over and over again and might become tempted by the abundance of choices offered in grocery stores. We must make it a habit though to make our own dressings and vinaigrettes because the commercial ones often feature nasty ingredients like some kind of vegetable oil or sweetener.
Eating our salads with dressing, lots of it, is not only tasty, but is also a very good idea nutrition wise. First of, we already know that fat is good for us and that obtaining up to 75% of our calories as fat is a good idea. The other part of this is that most vitamins are fat soluble, which means that the vitamins in the lovely vegetables will be much better absorbed in the presence of a generous quantity of fat.
Vinaigrettes and dressings don’t have to be boring or repetitive. Instead of the habitual extra virgin olive oil, you can use avocado oil, homemade paleo mayonnaise, macadamia oil or even homemade yogurt. As for the acid part used in most oil based vinaigrettes, you have a multitude of choices: lemon juice, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, wine vinegar and tomato juice. It all becomes even more interesting with the addition of herbs, spices and flavorings. Ginger, garlic, basil, oregano, dill, black pepper, mint and mustard are all perfect examples.
If you indulge in a bit of dairy in your diet, crumbled feta and Parmesan are super-star cheeses for vinaigrettes that will make everybody go nuts.
The whole process is all pretty simple and getting all the ingredients is actually the hardest part. For a classic oil based vinaigrette, you will want to put the vinegar used in a bowl with the spices and seasonings. Adding salt before the oil is important because it will get a chance to dissolve in the vinegar. You’ll then want to slowly drizzle the oil while whisking vigorously at the same time. The whole process can of course be done with the help of a blender or a food processor.
Dijon mustard is often included in vinaigrette recipes, it helps with the emulsion of the oil with the vinegar and gives a nice taste, but it can always be omitted. You can also make your own mustard to be sure you don’t eat any unwanted ingredient or preservative.
A good rule of thumb is to use 1 part vinegar with 3 parts oil.
Always wait until the last minute to dress the salad so the vegetables don’t become soggy.
Here is a simple roundup of classic and not so classic vinaigrettes and salad dressings. I hope you’ll also use your imagination and creativity to come up with original creations of your own.
This is the classic vinaigrette, which is very versatile, but goes particularly well on salads with fresh herbs or smoked salmon.
Follow the general preparation technique by combining all the ingredients except the oil and then adding the oil slowly while whisking vigorously. Using a blender will help to emulsify the vinaigrette. Shake well before using.
This is a classic of Italian cuisine and also acts as a proper marinade for your meat. It’s also famous when drizzled on cooked vegetables.
Put all the ingredients in a jar that has a lid. Close the lid tight and shake well to combine all the ingredients.
This dressing is good for all kinds of salads, but also really great on grilled fish or chicken.
Add all ingredients in a blender and process to a smooth purée. You can thin it with a little water if necessary.
Sauce vierge means virgin sauce and this warm dressing is sure to please taste buds that are still virgin to this sauce. It’s excellent when served on on warm vegetables or fish.
Place the garlic and chopped shallot or onion in a pot with the oil or clarified butter and heat the ingredients until soft without frying. Add the tomatoes and cook at a low heat for about 5 minutes and then add the lemon juice and chopped basil and stir. Season to taste and serve the sauce hot.
There are many variations on this dressing, with some that include Worcestershire sauce, eggs and sour cream, but I find this version especially delicious and simple to prepare. Anchovy fillets have traditionally been part of the Caesar dressing. Caesar salad usually consists of romaine lettuce dressed with croutons, Parmesan and Caesar dressing. In our case, we’ll go without the croutons and add the Parmesan only if desired for a Paleo Caesar salad.
Using a blender, process the lemon juice, garlic and mustard. Add the paleo mayonnaise and blend again. Slowly add the olive oil while the blender is in motion. Use a spatula to scrape all that delicious dressing in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, add some more lemon juice to taste and add some minced anchovy fillets to taste.
A nice twist on the classic lemon vinaigrette where raspberry vinegar is used instead of the lemon juice and walnut oil instead of the olive oil. The chopped walnuts give a very nice texture to this vinaigrette. Serve on a salad topped with extra walnuts.
Simply proceed like you would for a classic lemon juice vinaigrette and add the chopped walnuts at the end.
Simply prepare a classic lemon juice vinaigrette and add the grated zest and juice of one orange and 1 tsp chopped rosemary. Let infuse overnight for a better taste.
This vinaigrette is especially good on bitter greens or salads featuring roasted beets.
Peel the piece of ginger and grate with a box grater, then squeeze the resulting grated ginger to obtain about 1 tbsp ginger juice and discard the grated ginger. Whisk together in a bowl the grated ginger juice and the rice vinegar. Whisk while incorporating the olive oil. Add the sesame oil and season to taste.
This is a dressing with a bold taste so it will go well with bold salads feature strong herbs or root vegetables.
Prick the chillies with the tip of a knife so they don’t blow while roasting. Place them under the broiler until well roasted. You can also use thongs and hold them close to the flame of a gas stove.
Once roasted, put a plastic wrap on top for a couple of minutes so they steam and are easy to peel off. Peel off the chillies, open them, remove the seeds and finely chop the flesh. Mix thoroughly in a bowl with the oil, lemon juice and mint and season to taste.
This one goes well with salads that feature bitter greens like dandelions or endives since the sour of the yogurt cancels some of the bitterness and creates a nice blend of the two tastes.
Simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined. Season to taste and adjust with a little more vinegar if needed.
P.S. Be sure to check out the Paleo Recipe Book. It’s a cookbook I’ve created to help you cook the best food for your health. It contains over 370 Paleo recipes and covers absolutely everything you’ll ever need.