As we’re into summer now – though Scotland seems to have failed to get the memo so far – I thought I’d put together a little list of ideas for salad dressings. Salad dressings often get bad rep. and it’s often assumed that all dressings are high calorie and high in saturated fats. This is not wholly true though. There are a number of ways you can have a salad dressed with a proper healthy option. The fats in these dressings are ones which are good for you and which you do need, rather than a lot of saturated fats of which you don’t want a lot. It is more the acidic content you want to be wary of when it comes to vinegar-based or lemon based dressings (and that’s regarding your teeth not your body as a whole!) But as long as you don’t go overboard with dressing you’ll be fine. As always, it’s about balance, moderation, and common sense.
Here is my suggestions of dressing ingredients:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- The standard minimal dressing if used on its own – plain but still flavoursome. Go for as high quality as you can as the better quality the nicer it is as a dressing. You want a full, rich, taste.
- The history of this oil is immense – stretching way back to Ancient times, favoured by the Meditteranean for centuries and one reason for the area being renowned for having a healthy diet.
- It is high in mono and polyunsaturated fats – the good fats.
- Mixed with vinegars it makes lovely dressings.
- It can also be infused with fresh herbs such as sprigs of rosemary (just pop the rosemary into the bottle in which it is stored and leave it until the hints of the flavour can be tasted in the oil)
- You can also buy oils pre-infused with not only herbs, but also chilli, or other things like red peppers, or tomatoes.
- A cheaper alternative to olive oil, it doesn’t have the distinctive flavour and is made from the seeds of flowers but if looking for a milder alternative to olive oil, then this may be a good oil to try.
- Like olive oil it is high in the good fats.
- If you’re in Scotland, like I am, you’ll know that at this time of year many fields are bright yellow due to the growth of Rapeseed, so if you like supporting local produce rather than imported, then that could be another reason for opting to use this.
- Alternatively use some parts olive oil with some parts rape in dressings. You’d be in good company as if you check the labels of a lot of pre-packed salads at the moment, you’ll find that’s what supermarkets are doing too! (Cost effective)
Cold-pressed Coconut Oil
- Coconut oil is one of the new ‘superfood’ craze foods and if were it not for the fact I’m über obsessed with coconut in all forms (fresh, desiccated, milk, water), I may not have tried it because as with all new ‘super foods’ it comes with a ‘nice’ price tag! Not too extreme, but I still would only buy it when its on offer.
- This oil is solid at room temperature so if using as a dressing it will need to be warmed up (just leave some out in a small cup and it will melt if it is a warm day)
- Unlike, traditional ‘healthy oils’ coconut oil does have saturated fats but from my reading on the subject, the form in which the fats take, are not as bad as other saturated fats in the way our body deals with them. (A quick search on a search engine will let you see my sources so go give them a read if you’re interested. As I make clear, I’m no nutritionist just a passionate healthy foodie who wants to keep her body as healthy as possible!)
- The taste of the oil is gorgeous as it gives everything a coconut taste – hardly unsurprising (!) I use it a lot for cooking chicken.
There are more oils but these are my top 3.
- This includes standard balsamic vinegar, balsamic glazes, and infused balsamic vinegars (e.g. raspberry, orange, strawberry, or garlic)
- Balsamic is a wonderful dressing on its own, combined with other condiments to map dressings, while it is also a great dip for freshly baked rustic Italian bread too.
White Wine Vinegar
- This is a great base for a number of dressings – French, mustard, or simple vinaigrettes.
- Made from apples this is a traditional British vinegar
- Although I personally don’t like this, I’m including it as comes with numerous benefits (There are even books devoted to the goodness of it.)
- In dressings it is often used with salads containing radishes, walnuts, apples etc.
- Mustard seeds or powder can both be used
- Adds distinctive spiciness
- Adds a fiery heat
- Cook first then chop finely or use dried chilli flakes
- Great using for salads containing oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel)
- Also great with thinly sliced beef in salads
- It add an undeniable hotness
- Can use in a variety of ways – roasted, bought in an oil suspension, garlic paste
- All of the above ways make great additions to salad dressings
- Adds sweetness to dressings to counteract and complement the acidity / flavour of other ingredients e.g. lemon / mustard seeds
- Goes great in mustard seed dressings
- Similar to honey but with its distinctive flavour and less sweet (nutritionally lower in sugar too)
- Dates (standard or the currently Medjool dates)
- Finely chop or blend to a paste
Orange juice / Pureed Raspberries / Strawberries
- All add sweetness and go lovely with balsamic based dressings
- The juice of lemon is a wonderful contrast to the flavour of salmon but equally goes with a variety of salads
- Lime juice adds sourness again but with a less bitter taste
HERBS (just a selection)
- A classic
- Finely chop it in the dressing and also leave some to sprinkle over at the end too for a nice final touch
- The basis of the tasty thing that is pesto!
- Can be used blended (in oil / vinegar etc.), finely chopped, or whole
- My second favourite herb after basil
- Use in a similar fashion to basil
- Can be used in dressings for many different salads
- Looks great finely chopped sprinkled over the top too
Add these to taste and I also seem to finish with a twist of freshly ground black pepper over everything savoury I cook. You just need to check my previous posts to see!
Hope you found this useful,
Copyright HLDCblog // Helen Redman 2014-2015.