Salads have been a staple in diets for centuries, with early civilizations incorporating a blend of raw vegetables into their meals. Over time, the popularity of salads grew, leading to the demand for dressings to spruce them up with added fat and flavor. Today, American grocery stores offer a wide variety of salad dressings, from classic favorites to unique culinary combinations. In this article, we will explore the three basic types of salad dressings: vinaigrette, creamy dressings, and specialty dressings.
1. Vinaigrette Dressings
Vinaigrette dressings are made by combining oil and vinegar, resulting in a tangy and light dressing that enhances the flavors of salads and roasted vegetables. The history of vinaigrette dates back to ancient times when it was the first salad dressing used to dress foods. Even early pizzaiolos incorporated vinegar and olive oil on breads, creating a precursor to the modern-day pizza.
To make a basic vinaigrette dressing, follow the 3 to 1 ratio of oil to acid or vinegar. Extra virgin olive oil is a popular choice for its crisp flavor, and you can choose your favorite vinegar to add the desired tanginess. Some variations of vinaigrette dressings include the addition of herbs, garlic, wine, or Dijon mustard to add extra depth of flavor.
1.1 Vinaigrette Dressing Recipe
Here’s a simple recipe for a classic vinaigrette dressing:
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon vinegar (such as red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings according to your preference.
- Drizzle the vinaigrette over your salad or roasted vegetables and toss to coat evenly.
Vinaigrette dressings are versatile and can be easily customized to suit different tastes and preferences. Experiment with different herbs, spices, and vinegars to create your own signature vinaigrette dressing.
2. Creamy Dressings
Creamy dressings are rich, indulgent, and add a creamy texture to salads. They are typically made with a base of mayonnaise, sour cream, or yogurt, combined with various herbs, spices, and other flavorings. Creamy dressings are loved for their ability to balance out the flavors of salads and create a smooth and satisfying dressing.
2.1 Ranch Dressing
Ranch dressing is the most popular dressing in the United States. It is not only used on salads but also as a dipping sauce for chicken wings, pizza, and fries. Ranch dressing originated in the 1950s when plumber Steve Henson came up with the idea for the dressing. Hidden Valley Ranch, his ranch in California, became the source of the dressing’s name. The dressing’s unique flavor comes from a blend of buttermilk, mayo, sour cream, and herbs.
2.2 Blue Cheese Dressing
Blue cheese dressing is a creamy dressing that combines chunky pieces of blue cheese with mayonnaise, yogurt, or sour cream. The dressing cuts the pungent flavor of blue cheese, making it more palatable for those with sensitive tastes. Blue cheese dressing can be made with different types of blue cheese, such as Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Cabrales, or Danish blue cheese. It is a staple in salad-eating households and pairs perfectly with a wedge salad.
2.3 Caesar Dressing
Caesar dressing is a creamy dressing that features anchovies, Parmesan cheese, croutons, and raw egg. This dressing was not named after the Roman emperor but was created by Caesar Cardini, a restaurant owner in Tijuana, Mexico. The dressing was invented as a way to use leftovers and feed hungry guests. Caesar dressing is not only used on salads but also as a sandwich spread, dipping sauce, or substitute for mayo in pasta salad and coleslaw.
3. Specialty Dressings
Specialty dressings encompass a wide range of unique and flavorful dressings that go beyond the traditional vinaigrettes and creamy dressings. These dressings often incorporate unique ingredients and flavors to create a distinct taste experience.
3.1 Thousand Island Dressing
Thousand Island dressing is a popular dressing that combines mayonnaise, ketchup, and assorted seasonings. Its origin is debatable, with one theory crediting Sophia Lelonde, the owner of The Thousand Islands Inn restaurant, and another suggesting that it was created by the chef of the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel during a trip to the Thousand Islands. Thousand Island dressing is commonly used as a salad dressing and burger topper.
3.2 French Dressing
French dressing is a vibrant, orange-hued dressing that adds color and flavor to salads. Early versions of French dressing were oily mixes of vinegar and herbs, but over time, paprika and tomato paste were added to give it the distinctive orange color. French dressing is versatile and can be used as a marinade, dip, or substitute for mayo in cold potato salad.
3.3 Russian Dressing
Russian dressing is an American creation that combines mayonnaise, ketchup, chili sauce, horseradish, sweet paprika, and Worcestershire sauce. Despite its name, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that caviar was ever included in the dressing. Russian dressing adds heat and zest to salads, sandwiches, and proteins like chicken, tofu, and shrimp.
In conclusion, the three basic types of salad dressings are vinaigrette, creamy dressings, and specialty dressings. Vinaigrette dressings are made by combining oil and vinegar and are light and tangy. Creamy dressings are rich and indulgent, often made with a base of mayonnaise, sour cream, or yogurt. Specialty dressings encompass a wide range of unique and flavorful dressings that go beyond the traditional options. Experiment with different dressings to find your favorite and elevate the flavors of your salads.