Behold...The Salad Dressing Algorithm
There are a million ways to dress a salad but really only two basic types of dressing: creamy and vinaigrette. Pick one, then customize it for your salad with our recipe ideas—or your own. There is only one rule: Make it taste good. The formulas below will get you enough dressing for two large salads; store any leftovers in a covered jar in the fridge up to a week.
The Basic Vinaigrette
In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, shake together 1 clove minced garlic, 1/3 cup white wine or red wine vinegar, 2/3 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt), and freshly ground black pepper to taste. This is terrific as is, but it's also easily adapted.
Balsamic: Use balsamic vinegar and add 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and 2 teaspoons honey.
Asian: Use cider or rice vinegar and vegetable oil instead of olive oil. Substitute 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce for salt. Add 1 teaspoon each minced fresh ginger and sesame oil.
Lemon: Use lemon juice instead of vinegar. Add grated zest of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard.
Tomato: Add 1 small ripe tomato and blend.
Herb: Add 1 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs. Pick one or a combination: oregano, mint, dill, basil, cilantro, parsley, marjoram.
Curry: Add 1 teaspoon each curry powder and whole-grain mustard.
Fruit: Leave out garlic, use a fruity vinegar, add 1 tablespoon fruit preserves, jam, or jelly (or 1/4 cup diced fruit and honey to taste), and blend.
The Basic Creamy Dressing
Start by whisking together 3/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt (use less if you're going to add salty ingredients like cheese), and ground black pepper to taste in a small bowl. Then doctor it up however you like.
Ranch: Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1 teaspoon each garlic powder and onion powder, 1 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill, and 1 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives.
Blue cheese: Omit salt. Add 1 cup crumbled blue cheese, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Blend.
Horseradish: Add 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar and 3 tablespoons drained bottled horseradish.
Cilantro-lime: Add the juice and finely grated zest of 1 lime, 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, and 2 teaspoons sugar.
Poppy seed: Add 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, and 2 teaspoons poppy seeds. Omit buttermilk.
Caesar: Omit buttermilk. Use half as much salt. Add 2 finely minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 minced anchovies or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste, and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.
This article was first published in the June/July/August 2015 issue of Allrecipes magazine.