My kids love salad. Before you start rolling your eyes... let me give you my recipe for a SIMPLE salad dressing that makes us ALL want more.
SIMPLE SALAD DRESSING:
- 1/2 tsp. Sea (or Kosher) Salt
- 1/2 fresh garlic clove, chopped
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (approx. 1/8 cup)
- Red Wine Vinegar & Fresh Lemon Juice (approx. 3 tablespoons total)
- 1 tsp agave nectar or honey
My girls (ages 4, 6, 8, and 10) DO literally fight over what's left in the salad bowl each night. I have had many friends lately, tell me that their kids won't touch greens. I believe that this is possible to change! In full disclosure, my girls have been fed green vegetables from the time they were babies. We also don't give them the option to say 'I don't like it" and pass on the veg. Over time, I've learned which things they truly don't like (Emma would rather not have raw bell peppers, Bella does not enjoy eggplant) but they still have to eat it if it's served. I am aware of the things that they don't love - so I will limit the amount I put on their plates - but I try to make the salad or veg to fill HALF of their plate.
The research shows that phytonutrients in (especially raw) vegetables (and even more especially - dark, leafy greens) are a nutritional powerhouse. They protect our bodies with their incredible vitamins & minerals, help to prevent heart disease & diabetes, as well as boost the immune system (= less sick kiddos).
Real quick - some dressing basics that my momma taught me. The word salad comes from the Latin (sal) meaning salt. The beginnings of salad were simple salted fresh vegetables. SO... this is where I start. You MUST have enough salt to make it tasty. I start with a small mason jar or liquid measuring cup. Add about 1/2 tsp. sea salt (or Kosher salt). I find it's better to get the feel for how much salt you need by having it in an open bowl to pinch from. (And it's fun. It will make you feel like a professional.)
Next... fresh garlic. Now, pleeeeaaaase don't use the jar of pre-minced garlic, friends. It's just NOT the same. Once garlic is peeled and chopped, the flavor starts to get stronger and change. It only takes a minute to smash a whole clove of garlic (with the side of a knife), peel and chop. And... it's therapeutic.
Chop that garlic nice and fine. (I used to use a garlic press for this, but chopping keeps the garlic tasting fresh - and doesn't overwhelm your dressing with way too much garlic flavor). You'll end up using more garlic this way (which is GOOD! Garlic is a huge immune-system booster). I usually only add half of a garlic clove.
Now for the proportions. I'm an eye-baller. I am trying hard to keep track of measurements so I can share recipes... but all you have to do is watch the oil vs. acid ratio here. The fun part is that, once you get this part down - you can change things up all you want!
A good dressing is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid. I usually just make sure I add twice as much oil as acid ... so maybe mine is more like 2 to 1? I usually use Extra Virgin Olive Oil (first cold press is best). This has the most health benefit and flavor. (warning: Light Olive Oil tastes like air and will NOT give desired results - unless you are going to add other things and make it an asian flavor.)
For the ACID you can use any vinegar, or lemon or lime juice. Lots of possibilities. I always keep on hand, a selection of vinegars to choose from: (red/white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar)
Now (my secret)... add a little something sweet. Maybe this is why my kids fight over what's left in the bowl? It's SO good. I add about 1 teaspoon of agave or honey every time.
If you've used a small jam jar (with a lid) just SHAKE. Or, mix with a whisk or fork until blended. You can also get a good blend with a hand-held blender. Make sure your salt gets dissolved and blended in - (you don't want the garlic and salt to sit at the bottom and get left out.
Another VERY important tip: don't dress your salad until everyone is seated and ready to eat. Nobody likes soggy salad. Also ... just dress until coated. You don't want to drench it.
Home made salad dressing is SO much healthier. You know what you are putting in your body - since you made it. There aren't any hidden chemical preservatives or scary High Fructose Corn Syrup lurking inside.
The beautiful thing about adding this rich, healthy dressing - is that your body can absorb more of the vitamins and nutrients from the greens when they are paired with the oil (healthy fat) and acid. And.. it's delicious!
Here are some simple CHANGES to the above dressing to make it work with different salads:
- HONEY MUSTARD VINEGARETTE:
Add 1 tsp. of dijon mustard and use honey as your sweetener. This honey mustard dressing is delicious on a chicken salad with cranberries. Use other ingredients as above.
- ASIAN DRESSING:
Use Rice Vinegar for your acid (not seasoned - that kind has added sugar - and you're adding your own natural sweetener), and add a few drops of toasted sesame oil. Use the other ingredients as above. This is a wonderful dressing for a Chinese Chicken Salad - use cabbage or romaine (or a blend) mixed together and toss in carrots, radishes, fresh cilantro topped with toasted sesame seeds and almonds or peanuts. Yum!
- STEAK SALAD DRESSING:
Add 1/2 tsp. soy sauce in place of the salt. (taste to make sure - it may need a bit more?) Use up leftover steak by slicing into thin strips and placing it over a bed of greens, some fresh tomatoes and your favorite veggies. The soy sauce tastes delicious with the steak. (Use other ingredients as in above tutorial)
- CREAMY VINEGARETTE:
Add a dollop of greek yogurt, or part yogurt and part milk mayonnaise. This is part of your 'oil' portion - so remember to lessen the olive oil. If you like it thicker - replace the olive oil completely with the yogurt and see what you think! Some fresh chopped green onion, italian parsley or cilantro is nice as well! (note: if you whiz this in a blender - the yogurt or mayo may go thin on you. Best to stir in by hand with a whisk . (Use other ingredients as in above tutorial)
- LEMONY FRESH:
Use only lemon juice as your acid (add a teeny bit more sweetener than usual) and toss in a spoonful of capers. Chop some fresh italian flat-leafed parsley and mix in. Tastes amazing over romaine lettuce (sliced into strips with a bread knife so they are crunchy) with sliced celery and a bit of red onion. This salad goes lovely with fish, it is simple and SO delicious. (Use other ingredients as in above tutorial)
- MEXICAN LIME DRESSING:
Use only lime juice as your acid. Add fresh chopped cilantro. So simple and tastes great on a cabbage slaw - (to top some tacos). (Use other ingredients as in above tutorial)
So you see - you can change things up as much as you like! Try out some new and different vinegars - ( raspberry balsamic, tarragon white wine vinegar... the ideas are endless!) Hope to hear from some of you on what you've tried!!