I’ve always liked eating salads, and since I make a lot of my own food, I have long wished I could make my own salad dressings. While I like the taste of bottled dressings, I’m always concerned by their ingredients. Many contain xanthan gum, high fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed soy protein, or other ingredients I don’t generally feed myself.
I started by trying to mimic an Italian style dressing, because they seem so simple: oil, vinegar, herbs and spices. I tried a handful of recipes and found them all to be lacking. They were either bland or had strong flavors that were far from delicious. Then, a few months ago, a friend brought over some Trader Joe’s chickpea dressing. After looking at the ingredients, I realized it was basically watered down hummus. This was something I could work with.
I’ve been making my own hummus for years, because it’s so much less expensive than buying it pre-made, and I can add whatever flavors I want. Also, with a food processor, it is dead simple. So the next time I made a batch of hummus, I combined the following in a small glass jar (mine was leftover from sundried tomatoes):
- 3 – 4 Tbsp of hummus (any flavor)
- 1 – 2 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 – 3 Tbsp water
- a pinch of salt
- a few grinds of black pepper
Then I sealed the jar and shook it vigorously until the hummus completely dissolved. It resulted in a surprisingly creamy dressing and was enough to dress several salads. It kept just fine in the fridge in the same jar, for over a week (and then it was all used up). This dressing is very easy to modify by simply using different flavored hummus, or adding herbs, spices, or other flavoring liquids. I have since made a toasted sesame ginger version where I made hummus with ginger and sesame seeds, and added dark sesame oil to the dressing.
Yesterday I was inspired to make another dressing using a similar approach, and it was so good that after one bite, I got up, walked over to Ethan and forced him to try a bite of my salad. This dressing was based on a pesto recipe that I made a couple weeks ago. The recipe made about 1 full cup of pesto, which was more than we could use on pasta, spaghetti squash, and wax beans. Yesterday I took a tablespoon of the pesto and added a splash of pickle juice from some garlic dill pickles, and whisked them together with a fork. As I already said, the result was delicious. The best part is, the only fat in the dressing comes from the oil and nuts in the pesto, and neither the pickle juice nor the pesto contained any refined sugars.
The pesto recipe I used was given to me by a friend who got it from his CSA. The original recipe calls for carrot tops, because that week’s share came with carrots, tops included, but I used the same recipe using curly leaf parsley, to similar effect. It also called for parmesan cheese, but to make it vegan-friendly, I used this vegan parmesan subsitute. The resulting recipe was:
- 1 cup packed curly leaf parsley (stems removed)
- 6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove
- 1/4 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
- 3 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
- 1/4 cup vegan parmesan cheese
I combined ingredients in a small food processor and processed until grainy. This pesto is delicious when made into a dressing, or when tossed with some vegetables and pasta.