Homemade Salad Dressings

 heart with vegetables inside

We're getting into salad season here, folks - I can feel it!  It was in the 50's this weekend around Boston and you'd think it was a tropical heat-wave.  People poured out of their homes to get some sun and fresh air.  It's inspiring.  Big salads are a great way to get a number of your daily veggie servings in one meal . . . add a protein source and you're good to go.  Easy, healthful and if you play your cards right, tasty.

In honor of the upcoming season of big salads, I'm trying an experiment here.  I'm winnowing down the odds and ends of pre-made salad dressings in the fridge, and I'm going 100% homemade for a while.  Even if "homemade" means drizzling a little EVOO and then a little vinegar (we have sherry, red wine, white, champagne, fig and raspberry in the house right now) over the top.  I have been enjoying the fresh taste of homemade dressings so much lately, and finding the store-bought ones to be too . . . too . . . dunno.  Gloppy?  Heavily seasoned?  Unimaginative?   Just not good.

So along these lines, last night I made a super salad dressing – adapted from one Joanne Chang shared in the November issue of Food & Wine.  D. and I drizzled this over a bed of baby spinach leaves, shredded rotisserie chicken, grated carrots, navel orange slices and chopped peanuts and it was deeelicious.  Sweet and spicy and a little bit creamy.  I can’t wait for lunch today when I’m going to use more on another salad, this time with romaine lettuce*.

This stuff would be so tasty on cold noodles, tossed with thinly sliced scallions and sprinkled with chopped peanuts.  Or on a cold broccoli salad (blanch the florets before so they're intensely green and a little softer).  For whatever reason, grilled romaine lettuce with a little of this drizzled sounds out-of-the-ordinary and fun - on the list for when grilling season opens.  Really, any combo of salad ingredients would be great – Chang’s F&W recipe includes the fixings for Chinese Chicken Salad, but I was too lazy to go all the way last night.  Whatever you do, I think it’s important to have a little crunch going on . . . so think sesame seeds, chopped peanuts, fried wontons, etc. sprinkled over the finished product.

“Chinese” Salad Dressing (adapted from Joanne Chang)

¼ c. low-fat mayonnaise
¼ c. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
3 T. sugar
¼ c. low-sodium soy sauce
2 T. toasted sesame oil
1 t. Tabasco sauce
1 t. minced ginger
1 small clove of garlic, minced


Whisk all the ingredients in a large bowl. Makes enough to dress 4 servings of salad.

*Update!  I had an early lunch today - I think I liked this salad even more than last night's!  Chopped crisp romaine lettuce, topped with and orange-worth of halved wedges, grated carrots, 1/2 c. of edamame, this dressing  and chopped lightly salted dry-roasted peanuts.  It was crunchier and sweeter than last night's, and the romaine let the flavors shine a bit more (spinach is great, but a stronger flavor).  Protein + fiber from the edamame + all those greens and some fruit to boot = a full meal in your bowl.  Highly recommended!