Homemade dressings for spring greens

June 5, 2013 

A creamy champagne vinaigrette dressing adds just the right touch to this chopped salad. The recipe for this salad is at the end of the salad dressings story.

RICARDO DEARATANHA / LOS ANGELES TIMES

With spring lettuce and all variety of greens enjoying their time in the sun, it's a good time to think about how to dress them up right.

That doesn't have to mean reaching for the nearest bottle.

Making a homemade salad dressing is not difficult, and the fresh taste is always worth the small effort required.

From now until early summer, lettuces at farmers markets will be at their peak, so there's no better time to enjoy fresh, healthful salads.

Homemade dressings are usually less expensive and can be more healthy than store-bought.

But flavor may be the biggest boost that comes from making a dressing from scratch. Bottled dressings can have chemical preservatives that affect their taste, something that isn't a concern with a fresh dressing.

Here are a variety of recipes for made-from-scratch salad dressings, from an easy red wine vinaigrette to a rich and decadent creamy Gorgonzola, which can also substitute as a great dip for raw vegetables.

CREAMY TARRAGON DRESSING

Makes about 3/4 cup.

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

3/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tbsp. finely chopped green onion

1 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon

Whisk together the first six ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Gradually whisk in oil in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Whisk in green onion and tarragon.

Use immediately, or store in an airtight container in a refrigerator up to 2 days. Let the chilled dressing stand 30 minutes before using.

CREAMY GORGONZOLA DRESSING

Makes about 2 cups. Note: To thin the dressing further, add additional lemon juice, up to 1 tablespoon more.

3/4 cup mayonnaise (not salad dressing like Miracle Whip)

1/4 cup sour cream

1 clove garlic, pressed

1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tbsp. chopped fresh chives

3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

With a rubber spatula, blend the mayonnaise and sour cream together well. Add garlic and lemon juice and stir to combine. Lemon juice will thin the mixture. Add parsley, chives and cheese and stir to combine, but making sure that the cheese stays chunky. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

RED WINE VINAIGRETTE

Makes about 11/4 cups.

1 clove garlic, pressed

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

3 oz. red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley or other fresh herbs

6 oz. olive oil

Add the garlic and mustard to bowl. Measure in the vinegar. Add salt, sugar and pepper. Whisk ingredients together until the salt and sugar dissolve. Stir in fresh herbs.

Whisk in oil in a steady stream until well blended. Adjust seasoning to taste for salt and pepper.

TAHINI DRESSING

Makes about 1 cup.

1/3 cup tahini sauce, well stirred (sesame paste)

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 garlic cloves, minced

3/4 tsp. salt

Whisk together all the ingredients until smooth or blend together in a blender.

A NEW TAKE ON A TRADITIONAL SALAD

A little cheddar, some cubed pepperoni, olives, raisins, cucumber, crunchy pistachios and delicate lettuce strips are tossed with a bright yet creamy champagne vinaigrette in an alternate version of this traditional salad.

CHOPPED SALAD

25 minutes, serves 1

Champagne vinaigarette

1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and cracked pepper

In a bowl, whisk together the mustard and egg yolk. Whisk in the vinegar, then the olive oil in a slow drizzle. Taste, seasoning with salt and pepper and adjusting the flavorings if desired. This makes a scant one-half cup dressing. The dressing will keep, covered and chilled, up to 3 days.

Chopped salad

2 cups chopped romaine and iceberg lettuce, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips

1/4 cup chopped white cheddar

1/4 cup diced pepperoni, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1/4 cup diced cucumber, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 tablespoon green brined olives (such as picholine)

1 tablespoon black oil-cured olives (such as beldi)

1 tablespoon golden raisins

1 tablespoon pistachios

Champagne vinaigrette, divided

2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil

Fresh cracked pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, toss the lettuces with the cheddar, pepperoni, cucumber, olives, raisins and pistachios. Toss with 4 tablespoons vinaigrette, then continue to add a little more until the salad is coated to taste; you may not use all the vinaigrette. Transfer to a chilled plate and garnish with basil and cracked pepper.

Nutrition per serving: calories, 924; protein: 20 g; carbohydrates, 20 grams; fiber, 5 g; fat, 88 g; saturated fat, 20 g; cholesterol, 198 mg; sugar, 9 g; sodium, 1,395 mg

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