Dressing your salad
The Well-Dressed Salad Wears Only Homemade
By MARK BITTMAN
Published: October 25, 2006
ONE measure of a good home cook is the ability to make salad dressings. Even the best cooks reach for the better-quality bottled stuff on occasion. But taking two minutes to combine extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and a couple of real seasonings is an enlightening experience, one that can make you vow to leave the mass-produced concoctions of cheap oil, water (more water than oil, if it’s low-fat), dried spices and hideously unnatural chemicals on the supermarket shelf.
The simplest dressing, vinaigrette, is this: around three parts oil to one part vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper, and maybe some added flavor. This may be an herb (a pinch of dried tarragon is good, fresh chives better) or a condiment (Dijon mustard is classic, and a splash of soy sauce is amazing). There might be a bit of onion, garlic (easy on this), scallion or shallot. Combine them with a fork for a “broken” dressing, or with a whisk or a blender for a lovely, creamy emulsion. Presto.
Curious cooks progress from vinaigrette to bigger challenges: ranch dressing, which contains a mysterious flavor that drives people to distraction; the intriguing carrot dressing served over too-cold salads in many Japanese restaurants; and blue (or “bleu”) cheese dressing.
Because all are good even when they’re bad, imagine how great they’d be made well.
To take blue cheese first: if you combine blue cheese with yogurt or sour cream, maybe a little garlic, lemon juice and salt and pepper, in five minutes you will produce the best blue cheese dressing you’ve ever had. Start with good cheese. The classic choice is Roquefort, a blue made from sheep’s milk, but plenty of others work well, too, like Maytag or another well-made American blue; Stilton; or almost any blue from France, Italy or Spain. It should be strong but not piercingly sharp.
I find yogurt repellent and sour cream nausea inducing. Which is why I don't touch blue cheese dressing with chicken wings. Besides, my favorite dressing is Russian anyway.
posted by Steve @ 7:43:00 AM