Salad dressings and sauces have a long and colorful history, dating back to ancient times. The Chinese have been using soy sauce for 5,000 years; the Babylonians used oil and vinegar for dressing greens nearly 2,000 years ago; and the ever-popular Worcestershire was derived from a sauce used since the days of the Caesar. Indeed, early Romans preferred their grass and herb salads dressed with salt. Egyptians favored a salad dressed with oil, vinegar and Oriental spices. Mayonnaise is said to have made its debut at a French Nobleman’s table over 200 years ago. Salads were favorites in the great courts of European Monarchs – Royal salad chefs often combined as many as 35 ingredients in one enormous salad bowl, including such exotic “greens” as rose petals, marigolds, nasturtiums, and violets.
In the Twentieth Century, Americans went a step further in salad development – making it a fine art by using basic dressing ingredients (oil, vinegar or lemon juice, and spices) and Yankee ingenuity, to create an infinite variety of sauces and dressings to make salads the best ever. “Store bought” dressings and sauces were largely unavailable until the turn of the century. Many of the major brands of dressings and sauces available today were on the market as early as the 1920’s.
Unfortunately packaged/bottled salad dressings are generally full of fat and salt which defeats the idea that salads are great when dieting. And even when you select Low-Fat or Low in Sodium, there are additives in the dressings that really shouldn’t be in the foods you consume. Look at the ingredient list on bottled salad dressing. You’ll probably find one or more of the following: high fructose corn syrup, sugar, calcium disodium, modified-food starch, yellow #5, yellow #6, and xanthan gum (not to mention genetically modified ingredients in vegetable oils derived from soil or corn). What the heck is xanthan gum and why is it in my dressing? According to wisegeek.com, xanthan gum is similar to corn starch or in the words of the writer, “a colorless slime”. Apparently, it’s put in salad dressing so the ingredients will stay mixed together longer and therefore look picture perfect on the market shelf and your refrigerator door. It may seem so much easier to just pick up a bottle of store bought dressing instead of going to all the bother to make it from scratch. But it is actually very easy and quick to make a good salad dressing – it only takes a few minutes – you control the ingredients and remember homemade means fresh. A good salad dressing should compliment the greens and taste fresh, try this basic recipe.
1 whole clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dried or fresh herbs to taste
Smash the garlic clove with the back of knife. Add garlic to other ingredients in a jar. Cover, shake well and serve. Will keep in refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Feel free to experiment with adding other fresh seasonal fruits and veggies, pressed blueberries, lemon juice, cranberry juice, or yogurt if you are jonesing for something creamy.
By Hazel Bacigalupo