Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Basics : Salad Dressings

When it comes to basics, one of the first things we should think about making is salad dressing, especially if we are having a large salad for lunch each day as I suggest in my Easy Elephant Eating Plan.  salad for lunch post (Image from www.chatelaine.com)

 When I first started eating Paleo Primal, I have to admit that I bought dressing because I thought it would be too much of a hassle to make.  When I finally made my first batch of mayonnaise I realized I should have done this way sooner.

Making your own dressings take minutes, and since it's something we use so much it really is important to be consuming the right ingredients. I have yet to find a bought dressing that does not have vegetable oil in it, and even though you might think "a little veg oil won't hurt."  It does add up over time.

Once you've started making your own, a whole new world will open up to you.  You will be amazed at the multitude of variations that are available for you to make, and today I'm going to give you just a handful of these to start you off on this adventure.

 Dressings fall into two catagories - vineigrette type and creamy type.  I make one of each on my basic day.  I don't make more because fresh dressings don't really keep more than a week at most, and as I said, if I run out it only takes a few minutes to make more.

Let's look at the creamy type first since I've already done a post on making mayonnaise which is used as a basis for many of these.

UPDATE : Since I wrote that post, Mark Sisson has come out with a Primal mayonnaise that is amazingly good.

So if you don't have time to make your own or just don't want to be bothered, try this.  I think it's really delicious, and you can feel safe knowing it's made with only the best ingredients.  (You can buy an individual jar of this but you get the best price if you buy three.)

The first dressing that comes to mind for just about everyone is Caesar.  This is a great staple to keep in your fridge because it goes with any type of leftover roasted or grilled meat, chicken or seafood you might have from your dinner.

Just take a few handfuls of greens, add the chopped protein, a bit of dressing, and you have a great Caesar salad meal.

Paleo Caesar Dressing

There are as many variations of this as there are cookbooks, but the basics are pretty much the same in most of them.

Ingredients :

-  1 egg yolk
-  1 teaspoon of chopped garlic (approx. 2 cloves)
-  1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
-  the juice of 1 lemon
-  salt and pepper to taste
-  3 anchovy filets (optional)
-  1/2 cup of olive oil (extra virgin is best for this)

Directions :

-  Put all the ingredients other than the oil into a blender.
-  Blend for a minute or two until all the ingredients are combined.
- VERY SLOWLY (this is the secret) add the olive oil while running the blender.  Don't add too quickly or you will just end up with an oily mess.  As you add the oil you will notice the dressing slowly thickening.

This makes approx. 1 cup of dressing.  Refrigerate until needed.

Variation :  If you are going to be making seafood Caesars (cold salmon is excellent for this) you can add some chopped dill, either to the whole dressing when you make it, or just to an individual portion when you need it.

Fresh dill is best, and it's easy to keep this on hand.  Buy a bunch on your shopping day, chop it up when you're making your basics, and keep it in a small container in your freezer.  Then you can take out however much you need.

Also, if you can afford this, macadamia nut oil makes a great replacement for the olive oil and gives you a much more delicately flavoured mayonnaise.

Aioli Dressing

This is another mayonnaise dressing that is really delicious, especially if you love garlic.  And it's simple to make. Just add a teaspoon of garlic, chopped very fine and a teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary to about a third of a cup of mayonnaise.  You could also use dried Italian spice mix as an alternative.   I love this with cold roast beef.

Paleo Coleslaw Dressing

Coleslaw is one of those things that tastes the best once the flavour of the dressing has been allowed to seep into the vegetables, so make up a batch of coleslaw on your basics day and add to your salads throughout the week.

You can get pre-shredded coleslaw mix.  I like using the broccoli one as well and mixing it in with the cabbage.  This is a great way of getting all the nutritional value of many different raw vegetables.

Ingredients :

-  1/2 cup home-made mayonnaise
-  1/2 cup sour cream
-  1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
-  1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
-  1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
-  salt and pepper to taste
-  1 teaspoon celery seed (optional)

 Mix and use.  This will cover two bags of chopped slaw - either all cabbage or the two combined the way I do it.

Ranch Dressing

This not only is a popular salad dressing, it also makes a great dip for raw vegetables.

Ingredients :

-  1/2 cup of home-made mayonnaise
-  1/2 cup of buttermilk or sour cream
-  1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
-  1 tablespoon finely minced fresh parsley
-  1 tablespoon finely minced red onion
-  1/4 teaspoon chopped garlic
-  1/4 teaspoon paprika
-  salt and pepper to taste
-  a few drops of hot sauce (optional)

 Directions :

-  Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend well.  If the dressing seems too thick, add a bit of vinegar or even a little water to thin it to the consistency you prefer.

Avocado Dressing

 This is great to make when avocados are in season and will give you lots of extra potassium in your diet as well. I like this with greens, chopped tomato, and cold cilantro lime chicken leftovers. cilantro lime chicken recipe

Ingredients :

-  1 ripe avocado
-  1/2 cup sour cream
-  2 tablespoons of salsa ( or just use some hot sauce if you don't have any)
-  1 tablespoon of lime juice
-  salt and pepper to taste
-  1/4 cup of olive oil (extra virgin is best)

Directions :

-  Scoop the avocado out of it's skin into a blender (minus the pit of course).  Add all the rest of the ingredients other than the oil and blend.
- Add the oil a little at a time and blend until this is all incorporated.  It's not as important with this to go slowly as it is when you make mayo, but it still helps to take your time if you want a smooth creamy dressing.

Hot Bacon Paleo Dressing

This is absolutely delicious on a spinach salad, and gives you the added bonus of bacon bits on your salad as well. Add a poached egg and you've got an amazing and very filling meal.

Ingredients :

-  4 slices of bacon, chopped small
-  2 tablespoons of olive oil
-  2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
-  2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
-  1 tablespoon of chopped onion
-  any kind you have will do
-  1/4 teaspoon of finely chopped garlic
-  1 tablespoon of maple syrup
-  salt and pepper to taste

Directions :

-  Fry the bacon until it's crispy.  Remove and set aside.
-  Put all the rest of the ingredients into a blender and add 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease from your pan.
- Blend everything together.
- Toss with greens and top with cooked bacon.

 Now we come to the second type of dressing - vinaigrette.  Here is my basic recipe and a few variations.  Don't be afraid to try some of your own.  Just about any oil with any vinegar will work.  Add herbs and/or spices of your own and you will have your own made-to-order recipe.

Basic  Paleo Vinaigrette

If you have never made this before, I suggest you start with olive oil and lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, then experiment from there.  You're limited only by your imagination.

Ingredients :

-  1/4 cup of vinegar
-  3/4 cup of oil
-  1 tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs
- dried doesn't work that well here (optional)
-  salt and pepper to taste
-  1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)

Directions :
-  Put all the ingredients other than the oil into a blender and blend until combined.
-  Keeping the blender running, add the oil slowly until you've added the whole amount.

Citrus Vinaigrette

I love to make this in the winter when the oranges are in season.  I don't eat lots of oranges because of the sugar, but adding this dressing to my salad gives me all the flavour I'd otherwise miss.  And sometimes I do splurge and add a few pieces of fresh orange as well.

This is especially good with a few slices of cooked beets and a sprinkling of walnuts.

Ingredients :

-  juice of one fresh orange
-  1 teaspoon of freshly grated orange rind (grate this before you use the orange for juice)
-  1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
-  3/4 cup of olive oil (extra virgin is best.  You can also use nut oil - walnut or macadamia - for a great variation.)
-  salt and pepper to taste

Directions :

-  Put all the ingredients other than the oil into a blender and blend until combined.
-  Keeping the blender running, add the oil slowly until you've added the whole amount.

Raspberry Vinaigrette

Make sure you use organic raspberries for this.  Here a small amount will go a long way.

This dressing has so many possibilities. Would you have thought it would go with cooked salmon? I didn't but it was delicious!

Ingredients :

-  1/2 a  container of raspberries (or use thawed frozen raspberries)
-  1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
-  3/4 cup of oil (olive or nut)
-  salt and pepper to taste

Directions :

-  Put all the ingredients other than the oil into a blender and blend until combined.
-  Keeping the blender running, add the oil slowly until you've added the whole amount.


Finally, I want to give you my recipe for Pesto.  

It's not usually thought of as a dressing, but I love it on seafood salads ....

.... and in the summer, when tomatoes are fresh and plentiful, you can't beat it in this simple Italian Caprese salad.

It's very easy to make.  Just slice tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, then drizzle with pesto and season with salt and pepper. There are many variations of this salad.  Some people like to add slices of red onion.  Another variation is to drizzle the whole thing with a little Balsamic vinegar before serving.

This isn't a dressing variation, but while we're talking about pesto, don't forget it can make a great meal with my gnocchi. Add some grilled tomatoes and sprinkle with a bit of grated parmesan to finish and you have a fabulous meal.  I make this all the time in the summer when tomatoes and basil are abundant in my garden.

Paleo Pesto

Ingredients :

-  3 cups of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
-  1 tablespoon of chopped garlic (approx. 3 large cloves)
-  1/2 cup of pine nuts (or walnuts)
-  1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
-  3/4 cup of olive oil (extra virgin is best)
-  salt and pepper to taste

Directions :

-  Put the nuts, parmesan and garlic in your food processor and pulse until everything is just mixed.
-  Add the basil and pulse a few more times until the basil is well chopped and everything is mixed.
-  Turn on the processor and SLOWLY pour in the oil, scraping down the sides of the processor when necessary to incorporate everything evenly.
-  Add salt and pepper to taste.

 Variation :  In the winter when basil is expensive I've made this with baby spinach or arugula. The taste is different, but it's still very good.

This should give you a nice variety of dressings to choose from, and now that you have some basic recipes, you can experiment with your own mixtures of oils, herbs and vinegars.

Of course, once you stop buying all those ready-made dressing in bottles you will need one or two nice salad dressing containers. The cheapest solution is to dump your old non-Paleo dressings, wash out the container, remove the label, and then reuse these.

You will need to mix your dressing in a blender, especially if you want it to be creamy, and I think the perfect solution is one of the small personal blenders.  Since you can also use these for your protein shakes this dual-use small appliance can be a great addition to your kitchen.

 Or you could treat yourself to one of the nifty bottles available that allow you to mix and serve in the same bottle.  Personally, I like the battery powered ones that allow you to quickly remix before serving.

 However you decide to make it and store it, nothing finishes of a great salad like a simple but tasty home made dressing. (image from jbeancuisine.com)

 “Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.”   - George Bernard Shaw

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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. What a wonderful resource! I love that dispenser that is pictured near the top, where can that be found. Thanks for sharing these recipes.

    1. Thanks Deannie. I've added the link for the salad dressing dispenser just below the photo.


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