The Imposter in Your Salad (AVOID THIS)
The ingredient list on the back of a salad dressing bottle gives me a headache. Sugar, corn syrup, xantham gum, and other killer “ingredients” I can’t pronounce. Unhealthy and pricey. Often mislabeled too (no, they’re NOT healthy!). Big food companies are taking us for fools.
Because you see, making a homemade salad dressing is easy. In fact, it takes 3 minutes to make, costs almost nothing, and helps you lose weight. I learned how to make it on my first day of chef school. I was sixteen. And trust me, if a sixteen-year-old French student can do it, you can too.
I still remember that day. The old, grumpy French chefs gathered us in the kitchen, yelled a few orders, made us scrub pots and pans just for the heck of it, and in the last 5 minutes of class, they said they would teach us how to make salad dressing from scratch. And they did.
Here is the secret they gave us:
To make a delicious salad dressing, you don’t need a recipe (although I’m including one as a bonus below). The only thing you need is to remember the following formula: 1 PART VINEGAR (or something acidic) FOR 3 PARTS OIL (any oil you like), then add whatever herbs and seasoning you want. It’s that easy.
I really want to emphasize the simplicity of making a salad dressing. Or as the French call it: a vinaigrette. The vinegar (or acidic ingredient) you use doesn’t really matter. It’s a question of preference. Same with the oil you use.
Naturally, I tend to stay away from canola or vegetable oil (heavily processed and rather unhealthy), and I concentrate on extra-virgin olive oil. Your choice of extra-virgin olive oil matters. I always buy the best I can afford, and focus on so-called “estate” olive oil: small producers from California, Italy, Spain, Greece, France or elsewhere who take pride in olive oil making and use a natural process. The best advice I can give you is to taste the olive oil.
Talking about tasting, your first salad dressing may taste strange to you. Remember that a salad dressing is not meant to be eaten by itself; it’s meant to enhance a salad. So the vinaigrette really reveals itself once it is tossed with whatever salad you’re making.
There are a few dressings that I use all the time. One is a classic olive oil, sherry vinegar, and garlic. Another is avocado oil mixed with a drop of lemon juice and a lot of Dijon mustard. And yet another is a honey dijon mustard with olive oil and a drop of balsamic vinegar.
As a general rule, any fresh herbs like Italian parsley, cilantro, dill, or basil really adds a lot of flavor. So do garlic, shallots or onions, as long as they’re chopped finely.
I’ll let you create your own using the secret formula above, but let me give you some advice: don’t sweat it. I don’t measure my ingredients. I just wing it. Who cares if you put a bit more garlic, or a bit less vinegar. It’s all going to end up wonderful anyway.
A vinaigrette dressing (as shown on the left) is meant to be left as is. You don’t need to mix it, whip it, or work at it. That’s your dressing and it’s ready to help your fat-burning efforts.
Now, if you want an emulsified dressing (as shown in the photo on the right), then it requires a bit more work. You must add a natural emulsifier (like mustard or if you have to, mayonnaise) for the emulsion to take. And you need to agitate (whisk really fast) the dressing, adding drops of oil as you go. It’s a bit more work so I usually stay with a classic, non-emulsified vinaigrette. Much easier.
But here is the best part: A homemade salad dressing can be made ahead in large quantities (try a quart), and kept refrigerated for instant use later. That’s what I do.
On Sunday, I usually make a big batch of dressing that I keep refrigerated in a squeeze bottle. Every time I want to make a salad, it takes me no time: I grab a few greens (spinach, romaine, kale, etc.), take a look at what’s in the fridge that day (maybe a tomato, a hard-boiled egg, canned tuna and leftover green beans?), put it together, and drizzle it with my ready-made dressing. Dinner done!
Do me a favor: Avoid processed salad dressing at all cost. Make your own from now on. It will help you immensely.
Here is one of my recipes from the Eat More Burn More cookbook:
Fat-Burning Salad Dressing
Active time: Under 5 minutes | Cook time: N/A | Yield: 1/2 cup
Get the biggest bowl you own. Fill it with salad greens, add other vegetables, an optional carbohydrate source (such as berries, chickpeas, or quinoa), pile it up with lean protein, and an optional healthy fat source like organic eggs, cheese, or avocado.
Now, toss your salad with this slightly acidic dressing and experience great food while stimulating fat burning and feeling full.
- 3 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsps freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine all ingredients in a container or glass jar with a lid.
- Shake vigorously until the oil and vinegar are well emulsified.
- Serve with your favorite greens.