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How to make a simple and delicious salad dressing.
Give your weeknight salad greens a mini makeover with Cider, Basil & Feta Dressing. There are easily a dozen reasons I always make my own salad dressing. Don’t worry, I’ll spare you and only list my big three herein. But for those of you who know me, you know the biggest reason is because I prefer to avoid the unpleasant preservatives found in store-bought dressings. This is true even for thick dressing like a creamy Blue cheese or buttermilk ranch. Store-bought dressings have their time and place, like when you need to feed the masses and barely have enough time to set the table let alone make a salad dressing, for example. I get it. Been there...
But in addition to avoiding the yuckies (as if that were not enough), I also feel like I need to control the amount of sugar that goes in. Right about now, you may be thinking that the dressing you currently use does not taste like it has any sugar in it, but I am here to tell you that it most certainly does and probably more than you think. I plan to add sugar to this dressing as well, however NOT the ‘dextrose, fructose, galactose, glucose, lactose, maltose, or sucrose versions’ the food folks are using. Mine will be all-natural good old maple syrup. And yes, right about now you are thinking “maple syrup with Feta cheese?” YES! And do you know what? Cider, Basil & Feta Dressing is that great that I just may convert you to a dressing DIYer, too.
An emulsion is a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally unmixable.
When I first started making my own salad dressings, I made the mistake of decreasing the amount of oil I was using to spare myself the calories. Having gotten a bit better over time and learning a thing or two from chef friends who knew what they were doing, I’ve remedied my methods. Oil, regardless of what kind, is essential to accurately create an 'emulsion,' the velvety, delightful blend of vinegar suspended in oil. The dressing I am providing instruction for here is an emulsion, though I am also adding the few tablespoons of Feta cheese to in turn make it creamy, too.
Fresh basil makes this dressing pop. I ALWAYS have an argument for fresh herbs. I have used this dressing because of the incredible flavor of the basil over top eggplant fritters and fish cakes as well. Cider, Basil & Feta Dressing is handy for accompanying more than just salad greens. So, if you’ve got two minutes along with these few basic ingredients, you too, can make Cider, Basil & Feta Dressing which beats the pants off anything you could buy in the store, I promise.
Fresh basil is the ingredient that makes this dressing pop.
So, the goal here is to achieve an emulsion. This can be done by using a piece of kitchen equipment such as a hand held immersion blender or a mini-prep food processor. You can similarly achieve an emulsion by using a canning jar with a tight-fitting lid. The latter of these methods will also yield a workout for your biceps good enough to match the salad you are about to eat. That is, to get an emulsion using a jar means you’ll have to shake, shake again, and then shake some more, but you can get there.
I am cheating and using an immersion blender, pulsing a few times, and then pulsing again just before I plan to dress my greens. Because I am using an appliance, my version of these ingredients combined will be greener (the basil), thicker (the Feta), and smoother than the jar ingredient version. That said, there is something entirely rustic and visually appealing about the jar technique that the appliance will not get you. You’ll have a visually stunning dressing where the basil and Feta will be discernible. Either method you choose is correct, and the end result, delicious. What’s that? Oh, my third reason for making my own salad dressing? It’s a ‘Jenny thing,’ but I prefer my dressings at room temperature. Making it fresh equals room temperature.
Ingredients for Cider, Basil & Feta Dressing
1/4 cup cider vinegar with *mother
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
about 10 fresh basil leaves, minced if using the jar method
3 tablespoons crumbled Feta
1/2 teaspoon each salt & pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil
* I use Bragg's unfiltered cider vinegar with Mother. 'Mother,' or Mycoderma aceti, is made of acetic acid bacteria that develops on fermenting alcoholic liquids, which turns the alcohol into acetic acid. This bacterium is what is known as the mother, because it is the catalyst that gives rise to the vinegar. In addition to incredible flavor, it offers incredible health benefits, too.
Combine all dressing ingredients and mix well with a hand-held immersion blender or combine in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously for 5 minutes or until ingredients are emulsified.
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