Store-bought salad dressing always seems a little insane to me. For starters: it’s really expensive for what it is. It also nearly always includes more sugar than you’d want, and all sorts of thickeners and whatnot. For instance, we have a bottle of relatively high end salad dressing in our pantry that says “all natural ingredients” on the label and includes, in this order: canola oil, sugar, water, white onions, white vinegar, salt, apple cider vinegar, poppy seeds, mustard flour, xanthan gum, tocopherols, citric acid. You can do better than that!
Making your own salad dressing is not as easy as unscrewing a bottle. But it is also not hard, and you get something that tastes better. I have two basic salad dressings that I make, and this is my most favorite, based on the vinaigrette recipe that goes along with Julia Child’s salad nicoise.
This is the most important part: Get so that you can eyeball the amounts. If you have to measure the ingredients, it’s going to feel too hard to make regularly. Eyeball it, taste, and adjust. You may want a more mustardy dressing than I do, or maybe my mustard is more intense than yours, or maybe you want more lemon, etc.
Lemony Garlic Vinaigrette
I make this in a cuisinart mini-prep that I got from a box of stuff my mum was going to throw out. But it works just as well made either with a whisk, or in a mustard jar with interludes of vigorous shaking.
- 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped (if you’re not using a food processor, mince the garlic. You can also swap the garlic out for some shallot.)
- lemon zest (zest maybe a 1/3 of your lemon)
- juice of half a lemon (1-2 tablespoons according to Julia Child. 2 tablespoons = shot glass. Again, just eyeball it.)
- dollop of mustard (depending on how much you like, Julia recommends 1/2 a tablespoon)
- 1/4 cup olive oil or thereabouts
- Salt to taste (1/4 teaspoon or so)
Combine the garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, mustard, and a little bit of salt in the food processor and whizz to combine well. If you’re not using a food processor, whisk the ingredients together so they’re completely combined.
Slowly add the olive oil, with the food processor running. My mini-prep has a special little compartment on the lid with holes that you can pour the oil into and it drips in slowly. If you’re whisking, pour in the oil slowly in a steady stream while whisking. If you’re using a mustard jar, add a little bit of olive oil, shake vigorously, add a little more, shake vigorously, and so forth. You want it to emulsify so it looks creamy and doesn’t separate. That’s easier with a food processor, but not impossible by any means with a whisk or mustard jar. Don’t get disappointed if it does break, just give it a whisk or shake before you eat it. No harm done.
You want the finished product to be thick and pale yellow, sort of creamed butter/scrambled egg color (see photo above).
Taste, and add more salt or lemon juice or mustard as you wish.
I had this today on a salad with greens, oil-packed tuna, and chopped kalamata olives.