Vinegar gives spirit and tang to the dressing. Use white wine vinegar for a more mellow taste, red wine vinegar for a rosier colour, rice wine which is milder, or apple cider when there is fruit in the dressing. Balsamic is mellower and slightly sweeter, sherry vinegar is softer and more rounded. Fresh lemon juice adds lots of zing.
Oil carries the flavour of the salad dressing. Use olive oil (preferably extra virgin) which has a richer flavour. When you want a less assertive flavour, use safflower, sunflower, peanut, canola or avocado oil. Nut oils add a flavour change.
It is the great leveller of salad dressings. When the dressing tastes too oily, add salt. The oiliness will be gone. Use kosher salt for a better flavour and for a special treat finish the tossed salad with a sprinkle of finishing salt such as Maldon.
Mustard or Mayonnaise work as an emulsifier, as oil and vinegar will not combine without one of these. Dijon mustard is the best emulsifier, adding tang. Mayonnaise works too and will make a creamier dressing.
Make a large batch of basic dressing for the week. Dressings last at least three weeks, refrigerated. Remember to take it out of the refrigerator half an hour before using. Oil solidifies in the refrigerator.
A stick blender takes the whisking work out of salad dressings if you make a larger batch.
Don’t use salad mixes, create your own. Buy and wash a mixture of lettuces then store wrapped in paper towels in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. The lettuce lasts a week and it is much more flavourful.
Suggested Salad Ratio
If you put about 3 tbsp (45 mL) dressing in the bottom of a bowl (for 4 people) then add about 6 cups greens (1.5 L) you get a better distribution of the dressing and, as a bonus, you use less.
Seeds, nuts, dried fruit, toasted grains, toasted bread crumbs, crumbled taco chips
Ricotta, feta, grated Parmesan, mozzarella, blue cheese, Comte, smoked cheese
Pears, apples, strawberries, mangoes, grapes (especially roasted)
Herbs, spices, garlic, ginger, olives, pickles, honey, sugar or maple syrup