And who could blame anyone for thinking that way? Salads can be boring, unsatisfying and just plain forgettable. There is another train of thought, the one that I have adopted toward the salad. Salads can be bright, filling and the main course of any meal, with the right ingredients. And of course, with the right dressing.
I have had more awful store-bought salad dressings than I care to mention. The flavors tend to be muted, the salt to everything else in the dressing ratio is way off and the ingredient combinations sometimes wacky. Sure, there are some pretty delicious dressings out there. I'm not suggesting you steer clear of the salad dressing aisle completely. There are just so many reasons to make your own dressings.
1. You know what all of the ingredients are. As a chemist, I look at the back of a bottle of salad dressing and wonder why they need all of those chemicals. The main reason? To make the stuff shelf stable. Look in your fridge, those bottles have expiration dates. Granted, they are usually pretty far out from the purchase date. Please go and throw away all of your old bottles of dressing, you'll have so much more space for the new dressing that you're going to prepare.
2. You can control the salt. For the same reason that there are so many chemicals in your store-bought salad dressing, there tends to be a lot of salt. Americans consume far more salt than is necessary for daily life and it affects our health in a negative way. By making your own dressing, you can add just a pinch of salt (and that's only if it needs it!).
3. Think Fresh. Those salad dressings sitting on the shelf at your local grocery store can't call any of their ingredients "fresh". Nothing is better than putting together your own dressing and finishing it off with some freshly chopped herbs (straight from your garden if you're lucky!). With the flavor that those herbs bring, you'll be leaving the salt shaker on the table.
4. You control the fat. Along the lines of eating healthy in preparation for bathing suit season, everyone is watching their fat intake. Store-bought dressings contain primarily soybean oil or canola oil. There are some true winners out there containing extra virgin olive oil as their main fat source, but you have to be sure to read the labels. Why settle for flavor-less canola oil when there are so many other delicious options! From avocado to walnut, there are more options for oils than ever before.
So head out to the grocery store and skip the condiment aisle. Go to the vinegars and oils section and pick up a few options. I like to have white wine, rice wine and balsamic vinegar in my pantry at all times. Specialty vinegars make an occasional appearance and are fun when changing things up, try champagne or pomegranate.
Stock up with a large bottle of extra virgin olive oil, try to catch it when it's on sale! You'll find other amazing oils, such as walnut, sesame and avocado, often hiding in the natural foods section. Specialty oils are a little more expensive, but give your homemade dressings amazing flavor.