Cultural differences: growing up in America we had an entire fridge-door shelf dedicated to various bottles of salad dressing. When I lived in France, I can’t remember seeing a bottle of salad dressing anywhere because everyone made their own vinaigrette.
Making your own salad dressing seems so basic to me now, but I realize that if you’ve never seen it done, if you have a fridge door full of salad dressing options, it might not even cross your mind.
So why would you want to make your own dressing? It’s really easy. It tastes yummy. You can vary the ingredients based on what you like or what’s in your salad. And it’s either cheaper (if you buy fancy dressings), or it’s healthier (if you buy the cheap ones!). Just for fun, let’s take a look at the ingredients on a popular French dressing found in the USA:
SOYBEAN OIL, VINEGAR, TOMATO PUREE (WATER, TOMATO PASTE), SUGAR, SKIM MILK, SALT, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF WATER, SPICE, DRIED GARLIC, PROPYLENE GLYCOL, ALGINATE, XANTHAN GUM, VITAMIN E, NATURAL FLAVOR, YELLOW 6, YELLOW 5.
It starts off okay, although I’d rather eat olive oil than soybean oil. But as you get further down, the list becomes unpronounceable, and then finally ends with artificial colors – yummy.
My own personal rule is to try to eat things that my great-grandma would recognize as food. And some of those ingredients just don’t cut it.
It is totally possible just to put oil & vinegar on your salad, and I do this sometimes too. But if you are willing to spend just a minute extra you can make a really tasty Vinaigrette a la francaise.
I never, ever measure this recipe, I just mix it up in a measuring jug and taste as I go along.
French Vinaigrette dressing
Good olive oil
Start with the olive oil. I add about 1/4c. Then add some balsamic vinegar (about 1 TB). Add a good grinding of sea salt (about 1/2 tsp.). Add 1 tsp. of mustard, and a squeeze of lemon juice (less than 1/2 the lemon).
Now beat really well with a whisk or fork until incorporated.
Time to taste it … the best way to taste salad dressing is on a piece of lettuce itself. So just take a little piece, dip it in, and eat.
Some easy adaptions to make are to vary the type of mustard or omit it entirely. Add some black pepper or a chopped fresh herb like basil. Add some honey to make it sweeter. Use red wine vinegar instead of balsamic.
Do you make your own salad dressing? What do you include in yours?