Dressed for Any Season
by Perry Estelle
I hate to be a snob when it comes to salad dressing, but why is it, when you walk into a restaurant, and ask for the ‘dressing’, its more like jeans and t shirt, than a tux?
Salad dressing that is. Or, some faster food parlours, just bung a bottle of what I call ‘Celebrity Juice’ in the caddy, of Paul Newman or Lloyd Grossman. All those chemicals, ugh! In fast restaurants of the chain gang variety they just leave you sachets of condiments, that you have to open with your teeth, and get down your Sunday Best?
All the most imaginative menus in the world, and the only compliment for the salad is an acidic ‘vinaigrette’ with bits in it. If you are lucky enough to be gifted a separate oil and balsamic bottle, for you to mix by hand! Its far more preferable than the usual concoctions, but in truth, at least it seems to me, that the ‘ready’ potions are more likely to ruin your salad than inspire it. Leaving it limp and toxic.
So after ‘dressing down’ the dressings, we have to had suffer, let’s start dressing to kill!
Here are my four seasonal dressings. Zesty for Spring. Fiery for Winter. Tangy for Summer and a mellow Spicy Autumn fit for family feasts.
The ‘Golden Rule’ with dressings is 421.
That is 4 parts oils to 1 part vinegar. The second rule is never put more than 6 ingredients (bar the usual seasoning) in your marinade, as it will just start to look like the seabed! The integrity of the dressing needs to keep crisp looking without being murky at 1000 fathoms! So, please try to avoid too many freeze dried herbs, unless salts, or those awful, powdered sauce mixes.
Decanting? Get a smart decanter rather than an old kilner, or squeezy bottle, as pouring without the controlled flow, of a narrow necked nozzle, with stopper, may find you spooning it out, and may incur a dry cleaning bill attached to it, especially for your tablecloth. The idea is that it drains and strains, and not fills and spills.
One last trick is to, have a taste test, and decide whether some more zing, is needed. Salads appreciate more ‘bite’ or flavour and not blandness. Also, the cruet should be ‘pretty’ and that is, pleasing to the eye, as a window your creativity and really set off the palate, as you watch your friends gasp with delight when they taste it and served, with a swirl of sophistication.
Remember, that I will not use all the possibilities here, as your own dressing or marinade will be a veritable bottomless pit for ideas, that you can experiment with. Yes, you might make some mistakes with combos but, the fun is making the whole dressing creation, a taste bed for tastebuds.
Why, not try the nut oils? Like almond, or pine or even sesame, but remember that certain dressings, should go with certain salad dishes. Though, my guilty pleasure is expensive avocado oil as my personal favourite.
Balsamic, whether you use regular, or glaze, beware the latter may overpower the oil, as it is caramelised and concentrated, and that may turn the ‘binding’ factors into the ‘clogging’ factor.
Mustard? Rather that put Colmans powder, or Dijon paste, I prefer to get fresh mustard seeds, and let them dance in the bottle, with whole peppercorns, together.
Sea or rocksalt is preferable, as refined salt is full of sand and glass. That’s a another conversation for another day.
Winter Warmer Marinade Dressing
1/2 cup balsamic fresh vinegar
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup organic apple juice
3 whole fresh basil leaves
1 dessert spoon clear acacia honey
1 teaspoon sea or rock salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 flattened garlic clove
1 whole fresh red or green chilli
Tip: Flatten garlic with the side of a wide knife.
Spring Zest Marinade
Juice of a Lemon
Juice of a Lime
2 cups of Avocado or Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Half a cup of white wine vinegar
One sprig of fresh rosemary
One dessert spoon of finely chopped chives
I teaspoon of rocksalt
I teaspoon of whole peppercorns
Tipi: Add zest of lemons and limes for extra texture. All dressings should be refilled with fresh herbs or seasoning.
Sweet Summer Lawn Party Marinade
2 cups of Rapeseed Oil
Half a cup of red wine vinegar
Half a cup of cranberry juice
Sprig of fresh dill
1 teaspoon of finely chopped tarragon
2 cloves of flattened garlic
I teaspoon of sea or rock salt
Tip: Never whisk or use a processor for dressing, gently stir in a bowl before you decant placing the non-fluid ingredients in 1st and pouring the dressing over inside the decanter.
Autumn (Nobody) Leaves Marinade
2 cups of Almond (or Grapeseed Oil)
Half a cup of white wine vinegar
Half a cup of pomegranate juice
3 fresh mint leaves
2 leaves of flat leaf parsley
One sprig of rosemary
2 flattened garlic cloves
I teaspoon of mustard seeds
I teaspoon of celery salt
1 teaspoon of sea or rocksalt
A dessertspoon of clear honey
Tip: Grate the end of a nutmeg with this dish if want a deeper rustic flavour
Ok, just a quick reminder, that whether it’s a dressing or marinade, raw or cooked meats can benefit, so just leave soaked in the mixture and leave overnight covered in the fridge. Don’t forget with marinades and meat to ‘spear before you sear’ so the mixture infused within the meat.
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