Vinaigrette Salad Dressing: Buy It Vs. Make It
When I was a kid, my dad made this special buttermilk-based salad dressing in a little lidded Tupperware pitcher. The pitcher was a marvel of mid-century engineering with neat extenders that we kids could thrillingly pull out ourselves with only minor finger-smushing risk, and when we had company for dinner, my dad would give a charming little apologia: “There’s other dressing on the table, but this is one of my own invention; it looks a bit humble, but it’s very good.”
And it really was tasty, because he perfected the recipe over years of tinkering. (Now that I think of it, I don’t remember that pitcher actually being cleaned out too often, making his salad dressing a sort of never-ending cassoulet of ancient ingredients.)
My idea of a perfect salad topping has always been, you know, a hamburger and the other half of the bun. But I’ve become something of a salad convert recently due to my husband’s enthusiastic cheerleading for green leafy side-dishes. (You know, they say you always end up marrying your dad in one way or another; these two definitely share a mad-scientist-like affinity for concocting their own, most perfect dressing.)
Meanwhile, back at the grocery store, I find that I don’t even recognize half the ingredients in salad dressings, even when it comes to a fancy vinaigrette like Newman’s Own. A quick search online shows that most people prefer their own creations, and it’s certainly easier to control the flavor and quality that way.
And you know what? You can’t argue with results. One of the recipes I scanned recommended a little honey as an emulsificant (that just means it keeps the oil and vinegar from separating, but I sound WICKED SMAHT, right?) and holy crap. Three words I never thought I’d hear myself say: “Pass the salad.”
Admittedly, it’s harder to put minced garlic, chopped shallots, and herbs in a jar than it is to open a bottle, but c’mon, it’s not that much harder. Plus, I had a cute, empty, mini-mason jar in my cupboard, making for Pinterest-worthy results that I could shake up rather than getting a whisk all gooey.
Newman’s Own is 32 cents an ounce. Wish-Bone is 29 cents an ounce. You can pay a little more or a little less, but this is your average, and looking at the ingredients list makes me a little queasy. There’s a ton of sodium, for one thing, and I’ve never had a favorite vinaigrette from the grocery store.
I made my own from stuff I already had in the pantry, which to me, means it’s free. But if we’re going to really get technical here, I have to admit that extra-virgin olive oil is about 22 to 35 cents an ounce, and balsamic vinegar is about the same. So actually, you come out ahead with the store-bought variety — it’s about half as much per ounce.
There are store-bought salad dressings I’ll go to the mat for, but none of them are vinaigrettes. On the other hand, my own concoction, designed for my own taste buds — amped up with honey, mustard, and fresh shallots from our CSA — is a crazy, polygamous match made in heaven. There’s just no reason to subject yourself to sub-par vinaigrette. Plus, debating the perfect ingredients is a romantic, summery pre-dinner ritual.
Make it! For the amount you’ll need, it’s worth the extra cost.
Whisk away! Explore dozens of homemade vinaigrette recipes!
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