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Today is July 12, 2020

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What dressing do you want?

By Chef Andy Chapman

What dressing do you want?

Ever since the first salad was prepared in the Garden of Eden, I imagine that folks have been asking the same question about what dressing they might want on the salad. I never realized how great a simple dressing could be and how easy it was to tweak it to fit any set of taste buds until a couple of years ago. That’s when I started to get the hang of this whole homemade salad dressing thing — and it’s good timing since salad greens are a healthy, nutrient-dense and seasonally abundant produce right now.

A childhood memory of my late grandmother is of her pulling aplastic Tupperware out of the fridge and shaking the fool out of it before she'd pour the goodness onto her salad. I didn’t care for her oil and vinegar dressing as a young kid, but over the years I’ve had variations of that recipe that I’m crazy about.

Before we get started with the recipe, I want to remind you that ANY recipe — no matter how simple it is — is only as good as the ingredients with which you start. To that point, I got much more fond of vinaigrettes when I started using pecan oil, instead of (what to me) seemed bitter and harsh tasting grocery store olive oil. Now, there’s a thousand different olive oils, and I do like many of them, but the cheapest version at the grocery store wasn’t really my thing, and I bet you’ll upgrade, too, when you taste the difference.

The other side of the vinaigrette equation is the acid side, which for me is usually apple cider vinegar, but it can occasionally be a nice balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar.

Instead of giving you exact specifications of what to do, I’m going to show you the whole playbook of how I’ve been making dressing for the past few years and how to tweak it so you’ll have success no matter what ingredients you have stocked in your cabinet.

The basic premise is about a 1:3 ratio of vinegar to oil, but then there’s all of the variations of different oils, different vinegars and special additions that make a dressing especially yours. Do you like spicy? Do you like sweet? Do you like both? With this guide, you’ll be able to make the perfect salad dressing for any palate you have to feed.

To get started, identify: 1. What’s in your pantry? 2. What’s pleasing to your palate?

You may have an olive oil you like, or if you’re like me, maybe the flavor of some grocery store olive oil has been turning you off to salads altogether. Don’t give up! I personally love pecan oil, and when I was introduced to it a couple of years ago I’ve never looked back. It’s light, smooth, and has so many versatile characteristics. But you can use any oil you like. Grapeseed, avocado, canola, olive — whatever you have on hand — remember rule No. 1. What’s in your pantry? Use that.

Vinegar or an acid is your second component. Options here include citrus juice like lemon or lime or even fresh orange or grapefruit. Or you can use a flavored vinegar that’s hiding in your cabinet like apple cider vinegar, balsamic, white wine or champagne vinegar.

When you mix the oil and acid, I start by adding about 3 tablespoons of oil to 1 tablespoon of acid to a bowl or jar that I can seal (and shake). This is the base layer. Next, I add a big pinch of salt and pepper, particularly, I recommend kosher salt and fresh ground coarse black pepper, if you have it. It makes a difference. This mixture alone whisked briskly or shaken in a jar until it blends is a fine salad dressing in its own right. But, really, the fun is just getting started.

 

ANDY’S HEALTHY SUMMER SALAD

INGREDIENTS

Bag of fresh salad greens

Cherry tomatoes

4-5 garlic cloves

1 shallot

1/3 cup Pecan oil*

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper

1 tablespoon Asiago or hard aged cheese

(Serves 4)

 

Mince garlic cloves and shallot. Mix them with pecan oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk or shake well. Add cheese and mix. Pour dressing into the bottom of a salad bowl. Spin bowl so that the dressing is on the sides of the bowl, then add your greens and gently toss to coat the salad.

Garnish the salad with cherry tomatoes and more fresh cracked black pepper and serve immediately.

*Andy recommends Pecan Ridge Plantation pecan oil (pecanridgeplantation.com) grown and pressed on a family farm in southwest Georgia.

Now, it’s time to add an “accent” or three and let your creativity run wild. If it’s a sweet balance you’re after, I like to sweeten my dressing just a tad with a spoon full of pepper jelly or fruit sweet preserves. You can also use honey or a pure cane syrup-like Steen’s to give it a depth of flavor. Feel free to play with this flavor profile until it’s just like you want it. The good news is you can either add more vinegar or more sweet to balance it out if you don’t like it. If you like more spice, add spicy paprika or whisk in your favorite Cajun spice blend. Again, look for flavors you already love hiding in your pantry.

Bingo! You are now a salad dressing champion!

Cheers to a happy, healthy, homemade salad dressing-filled summer.

 

Andy Chapman lives in Gulfport where he owns and operates EATYALL and their newest subsidiary, Find Family Farms, businesses that help farmers and food producers connect to chefs & consumers around the globe who are looking for better ingredients. Andy would love to hear how your salad turns out. Contact him at andy@eatyall.com or visit findfamilyfarms.com to learn more.

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