It’s well-known that light and wholesome salad dressings are so much better for us than dressings oozing in fat and calories, losing nothing in taste but gaining in health benefits. A basic oil and vinegar mixture yields tasty and healthy dressings for all salads.
The benefits of Spanish, Greek and Italian, collectively considered the Mediterranean diet, are widely-touted. Although even experts don’t know why, olive oil seems to help reduce both cholesterol and blood pressure. Extra virgin olive oil is much better for you than oils such as animal fats, although it is still quite high in calories. Because it doesn’t require chemical processing, it retains more of its natural minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
When choosing an oil, choose light ones such as light olive oil or sunflower oil. You run the risk of overpowering lettuce leaves and other salad flavors with extra virgin olive oil. Other oils to try are corn, safflower, grape seed, groundnut and rapeseed oil. Or search your local gourmet food store or larger grocery store for such exotica as almond, pumpkin seed, walnut, hazelnut or even macadamia nut oil. Because these are strong and highly scented, they are best used in moderation for specific purposes.
Have you ever tried flavored oils or made them yourself? Gently heat olive oil and add chopped chives or basil for a delightful herb oil. After removing from the heat, let cool in the covered pan. Next use a regular or hand blender and strain through a fine mesh sieve. You may store the oil for three to four days in a corked bottle as the flavors deepen. Or try fresh chillies, finely chopped, a bay leaf and a garlic clove, unpeeled, add to olive oil and heat gently to produce a spicy chilli oil. Again, let cool, strain and store in a bottle.
A KEY INGREDIENT
Lemon juice or vinegar provides the acid necessary in a basic salad dressing. French dressing or vinaigrette is simply one part vinegar to three parts oil, salt and pepper. Just before serving, drizzle vinaigrette over sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, or toss it with lettuce leaves. For even more distinctive flavors, you may choose to experiment with different oils and vinegars including red or white wine, sherry, balsamic, tarragon or raspberry vinegars. It’s also quite easy to make your own specialty vinegars using tarragon, by simply adding sprigs to white wine and leaving them to infuse. Fruit vinegar is as simple: crushed fruit and wine vinegar are left to infuse for a few days, then strained and boiled. Just remember not to toss your salad too early, or the leaves may go limp.
oil and vinegar recipes
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