Enjoy the journey and make your taste buds happy!
Balancing the blend of an oil with citrus juice is hard to explain because there are so many variables, such as how juicy your lemon is, how tart or sweet that orange is, how dry that lime is, and then, which oil you’ll use.
Let’s start with the biggie: oil
Almond, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, peanut, pistachio, pumpkin seed and walnut oil all taste wonderful with a salad. Some have strong flavours, some are mild, some runny, some thick. Absolutely each one is, unique.
The rule I tend to follow most is; the lighter weight your salad ingredients are, the lighter tasting your oil should be. So a light leafy mesclun salad looks and tastes better with a lighter oil while a robust, earthy root vegetable salad will carry extra virgin olive oil without a second thought.
Next, remember your other ingredients – are many already acidic? If you have grapefruit segments, dehydrated tomatoes, feta cheese and olives, choose a heavier oil for better balance. (And then, because cooking is so personal, during the summer months you could always tweak this ratio.)
As well, consider the season. During winter months, we all crave and appreciate a heavier, bold oil.
In hot, humid summer months, the last salad we’ll glance at on the table is one oozing with an olive oil dressing.
Organic lemons are often juicier than regular lemons, and juicier at room temperature than straight out from the refrigerator.
I find oranges usually need a boost of apple cider vinegar to get that tartness.
An excellent base to work from is known as a ratio; three parts of oil to one part acidic liquid.
That means for every teaspoon of citrus juice you should add three tablespoons of oil; except of course if you want to break the rules and tweak that ratio.
Thankfully, food is forgiving and a great teacher of rules. If you only have olive oil in the pantry, it’s summer, and there’s no way you’re about to shop for a light oil when guests arrive in less than two hours, here’s a quick trick to take that 3:1 ratio that will never, in a kazillion years, ever, work down to a 1:1 ratio that works.
As you whisk, slowly pour in your oil. Feel the dressing thicken slightly and watch the liquid take on a creamier colour.
Now it’s time to taste, to test, and to tweak.
is it . . .
- Too tart? Add salt, whisk, and taste again.
- Still too tart but you’d prefer less salt? Add 1Tablespoon maple syrup, whisk, and taste again.
- Still too tart? Add more oil, whisk, and taste again.
- Not tart enough or too oily? Zest and juice another lemon! Or, if you have a lime, zest and juice that. It may not seem like much, however, limes add an interesting twist to the overall flavour.
- Don’t have another lemon or lime? Add 1tsp of apple cider vinegar, and taste again.
- Still lacks something that you can’t figure out? Grind a little cracked black pepper and taste again.
- Still can’t decide? If your taste buds are overloaded, take a break, grab a glass of water, and taste again in 30 minutes or so.
My best advice for THE best salad dressing is, tweak, taste, and tweak some more.
A great salad dressing takes time, but is worth every minute!