Making your own salad dressing is simple and delicious! I have a difficult time finding salad dressings without additives in the store, and although I do occasionally buy a bottle I generally just mix up a fresh batch whenever I make a salad. The fresh lettuce and greens in our CSA Shares allow us to have salad on the table at most meals during the season, and I find it really easy to combine the ingredients in a jar and shake it up. This is a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen, my 9 year old niece makes the dressing at most family meals!
Salad dressing is really just a combination of vinegar, oil, and mustard powder or dijon mustard with a pinch of salt and pepper. From there you can add fresh herbs, garlic, citrus, and even cheese to customize. Start with 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar with 1 tsp of dijon or mustard powder. For a salad for four people I usually start with about 1/4 cup of oil. If you like more or less dressing adjust from there. I always add fresh minced garlic. A lot of recipes call for combining all of the ingredients, then streaming in the oil while whisking which is probably the proper way to make dressing. I like to just put everything in a mason jar with a lid and shake to combine. Use whichever method you prefer!
The addition of mustard emulsifies the dressing, which allows the vinegar and oil to properly combine. Experiment with different vinegar and oil combinations for different flavors. Salads with tomatoes lend themselves well to a balsamic base, while blue cheese and red wine vinegar are a nice combo. Mix things up to see what you prefer, white wine vinegar also makes great dressings. Olive oil is a common salad oil, but you can also use canola, walnut, or even butternut squash seed oil. I usually triple-wash the greens, then toss them in dressing and place in serving bowl. Any additional veggies, cheese, nuts, or grilled meats are added to the top of the salad.
2 parts olive oil
1 part vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard (should work for up to 3/4 cup of oil)
pinch of salt and pepper
Variations. For balsamic vinaigrette use olive oil and balsamic vinegar, add minced garlic, minced thyme, and a squeeze of lemon. Try apple cider vinegar or red or white wine vinegar. For Asian vinaigrette add use rice vinegar, and add small amounts of tamari and toasted sesame seed oil. Add a few drops of worcestershire sauce. Make blue cheese vinaigrette with crumbled blue cheese and red wine vinegar with olive oil and fresh garlic. Add a teaspoon of any fresh minced herb or a tablespoon of finely grated hard cheese like parmesan, pecorino romano, or gruyere.