Chef in Residence
Make your own Salad Dressings
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The new year is here and many of you may have vowed to eat better and include salads more often in your daily diet. That is terrific news! Even better news is that it's also incredibly simple to make salad dressing at home with items that you have right in your kitchen cabinets. If you are going to the trouble of making the salad, which you should, then making the dressing is a breeze!
It may be tempting to purchase those complete salads in the bag which include all the salad greens and accompaniments along with a plastic pouch of salad dressing, but keep in mind, that the greens, even if they are organic, are washed in huge tanks of water that may be changed only once a day and merely topped up in between. The mud and dirt builds up, and chlorine, (yes, bleach), is added to the water to control pathogens. The levels of chlorine is supposed to be controlled by computer regulation, but is often added in extra doses by hand. Once "washed", the salads are then bagged in a modified atmosphere, a common technical definition that describes modifying the internal atmosphere of a package in order to improve the shelf life. This process is to slow the growth of bacteria and decay by removing oxygen and replacing it with nitrogen (N2), or carbon dioxide (CO2), is a colorless, odorless tasteless gas, that is highly toxic. Researchers at the Center for Food Safety have performed experiments with lettuce contaminated with high doses of salmonella or E. coli bacteria by washing it with chlorinated water, but only a small amount of the bacteria was removed. Between 1992 and 2000, the period during which the new phenomenon of bagged salads took off, nearly 6% of food-poisoning outbreaks were associated with these products. A study in 1996 of retail samples of bagged salad found 13% contained E coli regardless of the measures taken to avoid it. Most Food-borne illnesses can be destroyed by cooking, but salads are served raw.
Then there's the pre-packaged salad dressing. Most store bought salad dressings are almost never made of olive oil, even the ones that say "organic olive oil dressing". They may have some olive oil in it, but with the oil costing ten times as much as the other, cheaper oils, you can bet there's not very much. Most salad dressings contain polyunsaturated fats such as canola, corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, or the catch-all - vegetable oil, and have been bleached and deodorized with chemicals after a high-heat processing in order to take away any odors or cloudiness so that the product smells and looks "clean" to the consumer. But, even small amounts of light, moisture, air or heat damage and turn polyunsaturated fat rancid. These oils are the main fats now used in the restaurant industry because they are cheap and items marketed as being "cooked in vegetable oil" sounds healthier to customers than saying those same items are "cooked in peanut oil or lard". Even when not used for cooking and just put into a plastic bottle with other ingredients calling it salad dressing, by the time they reach us on the grocery store shelf, most would have already turned rancid just by the processing methods.
The main difference between polyunsaturated fat (canola, soybean, corn, sunflower, cottonseed and vegetable oils) and monounsaturated fat (like olive, peanut and sesame oils) is their structure. Polyunsaturated fats stay liquified in any temperature where monounsaturated fats naturally liquify at room temperature or above but then turn solid when chilled. Both are considered unsaturated fats. Some experts have advised the public to toss out the traditional cooking fats like coconut oil and butter, and replace them with polyunsaturated oils instead. They say this will save your heart, but heart disease is more rampant than ever. Historically, the evidence is hard to miss. Heart disease was a rare occurrence when most cultures consumed mainly fats like coconut oil, palm oil, butter, beef, pork, duck fat and ghee. The rate of heart disease began to skyrocket in the early 20th century - just about the time when polyunsaturated oils and margarine became popular, mainly because they could be cheaply manufactured. Here's a little bit of scientific know how: When the body detects high levels of polyunsaturated fat it stops the normal process of digesting fats in its tracks. This is why you may have heard polyunsaturated fats "lower cholesterol." They actually prevent your body from absorbing cholesterol, but also fat-soluble vitamins such as A, E, and K, as well as other nutrients like lecithin, phospholipids, and choline – all of which your body and especially your brain require to be healthy. All of these vitamins are found in those leafy greens you are about to consume on your salad plate. So what's the point of eating the salad? If you want those vitamins to enter your body, you must consume them with a very special fat: Saturated or Monounsaturated fat, which olive and peanut oils contain in abundance. When shopping, all you have to do is read the label of the dressing. Labels list according to the abundance of ingredient, therefore, if soybean oil is listed as the first ingredient, then there is more soybean oil in the product than anything else.
A head of lettuce, on the other hand, aside from being cheaper to purchase in the long run, is safer to make your salad out of because if it's contaminated, the bacteria are usually on the outer layers of leaves that are typically removed by consumers or restaurants before washing the interior of the lettuce. Any lettuce, organic or not, might be contaminated by irrigation water or runoff from livestock pastures near growing fields. Therefore, it is very important to wash your salad greens as well as all components you are dicing up to add to it. I usually like to chop everything up and toss it in the bowl of my salad spinner. Wash all well with a couple changes of fresh, cold water and then spin it all together. Behold, a beautifully tossed salad ready for it's coating of tangy dressing!
There are some dressings offered in glass bottles that are made with quality ingredients, but they cost near $6.00 per bottle! Save money and your health and make your own. Here are a few favorite recipes you can put together quickly and easily. Salad dressings can be prepared and kept in the refrigerator, or on a shelf. If products such as oil, vinegar and mustard are used, it does not need refrigeration since none of these items require refrigeration prior to mixing them together anyway. The ready recipe that does require chilled conditions can be kept for quite a length of time under refrigeration. Remember that monounsaturated oils will harden when they are chilled, so this might cause the dressing to have bumps or a top layer of hardened oil in it when you remove it from the fridge. Just let it sit at room temperature for a half hour or so and then give it a good shake. That should do the trick. For simplicity, I use a recycled, wide-mouthed jar, like a peanut butter jar, to mix all my dressings in. These recipes do make between 1 and 2 cups of dressing:
2/3 cup Olive oil (Cold pressed and unfiltered)
4 tsp Vinegar (Apple cider, red wine, white balsamic or any other of choice)
2 tsp mustard (Grey Poupon is the best)
2 whole cloves of garlic, smashed slightly (Organic garlic, if possible)
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
Pinch dehydrated cane juice (organic Sucanat which is easily found in the health food section of stores)
- Mix all of the above together using a recycled jar and drop in the two whole cloves of garlic. Leave this dressing on counter for a few hours or overnight to absorb the flavor of the garlic. If the dressing is for the same day, crush the garlic in a press or chop finely by hand and add with the rest of the ingredients when mixing and just leave it in.
- If using whole cloves, remove and throw out prior to serving. Pour the dressing over the salad and enjoy!
Simple Yogurt, Oil & Lemon Dressing
1/3 cup plain yoghurt (organic)
1/3 cup olive oil (cold pressed, unfiltered)
2 tsp lemon juice (fresh, organic)
Fresh Ground Pepper
Shake this mixture well until it becomes creamy in texture. Adjust seasonings to your liking.
½ cup evaporated cane juice (such as Sucanat)
2/3 cup olive or peanut oil (cold pressed, unfiltered)
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup ketchup (organic or homemade)
½ onion – grated (organic)
- Mix all together in a recycled jar and shake up well.
¾ cup sour cream (Daisy or Axelrod brand is best)
¾ cup mayonnaise (organic)
½ cup buttermilk (organic)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice (fresh, organic)
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic – crushed (organic)
2 ¼ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ teaspoons chives – diced fine (organic)
1 ½ teaspoons shallots – minced (organic)
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard (Grey Poupon is best)
½ teaspoon celery seed – optional
Mix all together in a recycled jar and shake well.
1 1/2 C. Mayonnaise (organic)
1/2 C. sour cream (Daisy or Axlerod's is best)
2/3 C. chili sauce (this is a condiment typically sold near cocktail sauce)
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (organic)
2 Tbsp. dill pickle - minced
1 Tbsp. minced green pepper (organic)
2 Tbsp. minced green onion (organic)
4 tsp. fine grated fresh horseradish or drained bottled horseradish2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
2 tsp. evaporated cane juice (Sucanat)
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. Paprika
1 Tbsp. minced parsley (organic)
Combine all ingredients in a recycled jar and shake well.
1 tsp. Sea salt
3 eggs (organic, free range or free running)
1 1/2 tsp. Evaporated cane juice (Sucanat)
3/4 tsp. dry mustard
3 tsp. lemon juice (fresh, organic)
1 tsp. Parmesan cheese
4-6 cloves crushed garlic (organic)
6 tsp. wine vinegar
1 c. plus 2 tbsp. Olive oil (cold pressed, unfiltered)
6 drops hot sauce
6 drops Worcestershire sauce
1-2 teaspoons anchovy paste - optional
Mix in blender or shake in a recycled jar and refrigerate until ready to use.