Hey people! Are you feeling the warm approach of summertime? I’ve had a taste, and I am fully on board to embrace the breezy summer mindset. I’m currently still coasting on good vibes from an incredible Memorial Day weekend that involved an excess of many of the best things life has to offer: good friends, beach lounging, city exploring, burgers, beers and breakfast burritos. It was beautiful, but in the interest of balance I’ve been consequently feeling the need to stuff my face with salad.
And what better time to get excited about salad?? The warm weather simultaneously decreases our desire to turn on the oven and brings markets bursting with fresh produce so flawless that all they need is a quick chop and toss with vinaigrette. Store-bought dressings are convenient, but it’s not easy to find products without unnecessary preservatives and excess sodium. See where this is going?
A few years ago I was gifted a Good Seasons Cruet, and never looked back. The bottle is marked with lines that make it easy to fill up oil and vinegar in the ratio to create your own perfect vinaigrette. The lines measure out to 1/4 cup vinegar, 3 Tbsp. water, and 1/2 cup oil; even if this isn’t your personal ideal ratio (I prefer a little extra vinegar kick), it’s a helpful tool for estimating. Or just use a regular jar, dudes! This isn’t exactly a precision operation.
The cruet is designed to be used with Good Seasons powdered spice packets, but I find it tastier and cheaper to flavor the vinaigrette myself. In fact, even the simplest DIY vinaigrette is fully customizable from the ground up:
Vinegar: My usual favorite is apple cider vinegar; I think the sublty fruity quality compliments a wide range of other flavors. Depending on what other ingredients you plan to add, some other solid choices are red wine vinegar, balsamic, or other specialty infused vinegars.
Water: A little splash of water softens the acidity of the vinegar. Simple! But you could also employ a liquid with some extra flavor, like fruit juice or puree.
Oil: If you normally reach for fat-free dressing, please don’t balk at the oil in this recipe… it’s important! Healthy fats keep us satisfied, and help the body to absorb the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in vegetables. If you ask this RD, fat-free salad dressing is the worst thing to happen to the American diet since sliced wonderbread. I like to use extra-virgin olive oil for the bulk of my dressings, but be aware that it tends to solidify when kept in the fridge. You can address this several different ways:
So it’s as easy as starting with that basic ratio – 1/4 cup+ vinegar, 3 Tbsp. water, 1/2 cup oil – and then pump it up with your favorite flavors! Just season to taste – don’t stress over exact measurements. This is a great time to get creative, but here are a few select variations:
- Letting the bottle sit at room temperature 30 minutes before salad time
- Speeding up the process by running warm water over the outside of the bottle
- Replacing some of the olive oil with vegetable/canola oil, which undergoes a commercial “winterizing” process to remain fluid at cold temperatures.
Official Flavorrd House Vinaigrette: all-purpose deliciousness; almost always available in my fridge.
1/2 tsp grainy Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp honey
1 sprinkle of Hungarian paprika
1 generous sprinkle of dried dill leaf
Hot Havana Vinaigrette: a spicy take on my favorite Cuban flavors from my years in Miami. Not just for salad – try it on steamed yuca root too!
1 Tbsp. finely minced shallot or red onion
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 tsp minced jalapeno
1 sprinkle of cumin
Minty Grapefruit Vinaigrette: feeling fancy? This herby citrus concoction will bring major wow factor to your leafy greens!
1 Tbsp. grapefruit juice
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves
1 sprinkle ground coriander
Those are my picks, but how about you? What are your favorite flavors for dressing up a salad?