Food is an important part of sustainability. One win win for the environment is to make your own salad dressings. You can save money, have fun (if you enjoy experimenting), and avoid lots of bottles and the energy required for sterilization and transportation. Here are a few recipe ideas.
Oil and vinegar is a popular starting point but oil and vinegar separate very quickly. Even if you shake immediately before pouring, it is hard to be fast enough. I find that adding some prepared mustard to the mix helps it stay mixed longer. Making the water/vinegar phase thicker seems to be the key. There are many thick foods that are good in salad dressing. Horseradish is one. If you would like some sweetness, apple butter, apple sauce, or fruit fresh from the blender/grinder would work. As to oils, olive oil goes well with most salads but there are other tasty and nutritious oils. Black cumin oil offers many health benefits, as does grape seed oil and sesame oil. I never use canola or soy for reasons that will be addressed in a future article.
Salad dressings taste better if you add salt. The pink Himalayan or sea salt are the most healthful. Aluminum salts are added to prevent caking of some brands of commercially available salt, but I would rather spend a moment breaking up the salt that putting aluminum into my body. It is one suspected cause of Alzheimer’s.
One way of adding salt is to add tamari or soy sauce or liquid amino acids. My tamari sauce is usually full of garlic cloves. This is a great way to preserve garlic without having it sprout or shrivel and it provides a quick way to add garlic flavor to things. The garlic will flavor several rounds of liquid and after a couple months (or even a couple years), the cloves can be added to soups as the source of salt and mild garlic flavor.
There are many kinds of vinegar, some of which can only be found in grocery stores that cater to specific cultures, such as Asian or Middle Eastern. I have umebashi plum vinegar and pomegranate vinegar and balsamic vinegar in my cupboard, as well as apple cider. I only use clear vinegar for cleaning. It is distilled and has no minerals or other trace nutrients.
One of the annoying things about watery dressings is that most of the dressing falls to the bottom of the bowl or plate and is never enjoyed. If you but something that absorbs liquids into the salad (parmesan cheese, hemp seeds, chia seeds, almond meal, bread crumbs, etc.) before you add the dressing, much more of it will stay with the salad.
If you like lemon or lime, you could use that instead of vinegar. It goes well with oil, but it also blends nicely with tahini. As you mix them together, you will notice that the mixture gets thicker. A little black cumin oil added to the mix is great for those who like cumin. Again, you could instead (or in addition) add a bit of sweetness with apple sauce or apple butter. If you don’t like tahini, perhaps you would like to try it with almond butter instead.
If you want a creamy dressing, you can start with mayonnaise. If you can eat dairy products, you can add some yogurt or sour cream to lighten the texture. One of my favorite creamy dressings contains plenty of mashed strawberries. A big of tarragon and horseradish and a little salt makes this one of my favorites for spring. It is delicious with greens but does not work with many common salad ingredients, such as tomatoes.
If you make kombucha (from sweetened tea which ferments to become quite tangy if you let it go long enough), this is a nice source of sour flavor and goes well with garlic. If you put it in a blender with a bit of garlic and cumin, and perhaps some cinnamon and/or cocoa, you have a very lovely blend. With enough walnuts, it will have a mousse-like texture. This blend stores very well and can be added to soups before serving or used as a sandwich spread. I call it garlic mousse. You can also add additional oil, though the walnuts have enough.