Make your own salad dressings with these simple ingredients

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Local produce is short lived in our neck of the woods but absence makes the heart grow fonder or should I say absence makes the produce tastier! Well, the wait is over. Backyard gardens are producing and farmers markets are now loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Locally grown tomatoes, sweet peppers, cool, crispy cucumbers, and late summer heads of lettuce are the makings of the best salads to be had all year and the best salads call for the best salad dressing and the best salad dressing is homemade. As easy as it is to assemble a salad, so to is it easy to whip up a great dressing.

Spring greens, delicate mesclun and such need only be dressed with a light vinegairette while the heartier vegetables of late summer pair well with richer dressings.

The easiest dressing ever is simply 1 cup of good mayonnaise and a perfectly ripened, meaty tomato cut into quarters and blended together until smooth in a food processor. Salt and pepper to taste and that's it!

Chunks of tomato, peppers, cucumber and onions along with some feta cheese and black olives need to marinate in a robust dressing with extra virgin olive oil, potent herbs and a bit of bright acidity from lemon juice for a classic Greek Salad.

Greek Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon of dried oregano rubbed between hands to release the fragrant oils

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a jar with a lid. Shake well to combine. Shake again before serving.

The surprise in one of my favorite salad dressings is dates. The addition of fresh ginger creates a sweet and spicy dressing with an Asian flare. Besides salads, drizzle it on grilled chicken, pork or serve as a dip for crudit s or sweet potato fries. It even works well on fruit salads.

Ingredients:

1 cup whole pitted dates

1" slice fresh ginger, peeled and minced

juice of 1 large lime

1 garlic clove

2 tablespoons soy sauce

pinch of cumin

2/3 cups salad oil such as canola

salt, pepper to taste

Directions:

Soak dates in enough warm water to just cover for at least 15 minutes. In a blender, combine dates and liquid, ginger, half the lime juice, garlic, soy, cumin and salad oil. Process until very smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning adding remaining lime juice, salt or extra cumin to taste. Thin with water if too thick.

A good creamy base for salad dressing is 1 cup of mayonnaise blended with 3/4 cup of buttermilk. Make a creamy caesar dressing by adding the juice of half a lemon and 1/2 teaspoon of the grated zest, a large clove of minced garlic, a splash of worcestershire and a handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.

Or, change it up and add some fresh herbs like chives, dill or basil, season with garlic, salt and pepper to the mayo buttermilk blend for a ranch a style dressing. Some crumbled bacon, and you've got bacon ranch dressing!

Mint and basil add fresh flavor to a simple vinegairette. Delicious with sliced cucumbers.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup salad oil such as canola

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

3 packed tablespoons fresh mint leaves

2 packed tablespoons fresh basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Process all in a blender until smooth.

Healthy and easy is this recipe for avocado yogurt dressing.

Ingredients:

1 perfectly ripe avocado, peeled and pitted

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 scallions, chopped

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup fresh cilantro you either love it or hate so it's optional

Directions:

Process all in a food processor until smooth. Makes a great dip too.

I've added a roasted sweet pepper to the classic thousand island dressing and I'm liking the result.

Ingredients:

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 of a roasted red pepper, from the jar is OK

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 tablespoon sweet relish

2 tablespoons red onion, minced

1 hardboiled egg, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Process mayo and red pepper until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients.

There you have it — homemade salad dressings fit for the glorious abundance of fresh, local, produce.

Savor the season's bounty and enjoy the rest of summer!


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