Because it saw the salad dressing. Hah, hah, hah!
That’s exactly the kind of corny, pun-based joke that Maggie’s late father, Noel used to crack and, much to my son’s embarrassment, I let slip quite often myself.
But, enough frivolity. The actual purpose of this post is to describe the various dressings that Maggie and I make to add texture, moisture and a modest amount of flavour to salads. (The contents of this post will be of limited value for many home cooks but, for the rest of you, especially anyone who believes, as I once did, that they have little or no talent for making a salad, …)
There are no commercial salad dressings in our kitchen. We used to buy a manufactured dressing to use with a Caesar style of salad but, for the past few years, we have done away with that. And we have never, ever owned a bottle of what might be called ‘French’ dressing – I brought my habit of making my own vinaigrette into our shared kitchen.
I have previously posted our long-standing recipe for a vinaigrette dressing, which was a modified version of one I had found in a book of barbecue food recipes about 15 years ago. More recently, we have switched to the method that most trained cooks would use: whisking the ingredients together in a bowl, while using a simplified list of ingredients – white pepper, salt, sugar, mustard, oil and red wine vinegar – and trusting our experience and palates to get the balance of flavours and textures right.
The other style of dressing that we make regularly is a creamy one, such as you might use to dress a potato salad. In this case, we use three main ingredients – mayonnaise (Norganic Golden Soya), light sour cream and Dijon mustard – and we vary the proportions according to the type of salad.
For a potato salad, including fresh peas and plenty of chopped parsley and chives, we use 6 parts mayonnaise to 4 parts sour cream and 1 part mustard to produce about 110ml of dressing to go with 500g of potato.
For a coleslaw – shredded Savoy cabbage, finely chopped celery, grated carrot and beetroot, and some currants – we reduce the amount of mustard by half.
Then, for a Waldorf salad or baby beetroot, we bring the sour cream to the fore: 12 parts to 8 of mayonnaise and, barely detectable but noticed if absent, 1 of mustard.
And, finally, for a Caesar style of salad, we drop the mustard altogether and go about 50:50 with the cream and mayonnaise, with an extra pinch or two of salt flakes and black pepper to work with all that egg and lettuce.
Of course, we all have different palates and preferences. My point is, though, that your enjoyment of a salad can be enhanced by a well-proportioned, homemade dressing. You might even receive so many complements that you blush, just like that tomato!