Dress In Style

Dress In Style

Style changes whether we're dressing ourselves or our salads. Today's salads don't wear thick coats of salmon pink (think "Thousand Island" and "Russian"). Instead, lettuce dresses in custom blends created to highlight and balance the flavors of today's colorful salads. With the abundance of savory vinegars and rich smooth oils available, dressing your salad can be an appetizing experience that can, well, knock your socks off.

Whipping up dressings isn't as easy as opening a store-bought bottle, but your farm-fresh ingredients deserve a little extra effort. When creating, consider the three main styles of salad dressings: creamy, specialty and vinaigrette.

Bleu cheese, ranch, and thousand island are examples of creamy dressings. With mayonnaise, yogurt and/or sour cream bases, these mixtures are seasoned with fresh and dried vegetables and herbs.

Specialty dressings such as pungent Caesar dressing with anchovies, lemon juice and Parmesan cheese augments romaine lettuce and croutons. While baby greens, crispy noodles and sesame seeds are enhanced by silken tofu, soy sauce and sesame seed oil-based Asian dressings.

Salads of greens, brightly-colored fruits and veggies, and robust nuts are enhanced by the most versatile dressings "¦ the vinaigrette. These oil and vinegar dressings all follow the same basic ratio: two parts oil to one part vinegar. "Put the vinegar in first, then whisk in the oil," says Marilyn Moore, author and chef in Ashland. "Use high-quality oil with omega-3 fatty acids, like extra virgin olive oil."

For flavoring, add fresh chopped herbs — garlic, basil, thyme, parsley or sage — and coarsely ground black pepper and sea salt. Chef Sandy Dowling, owner of The Willows Cooking School in Central Point, then incorporates an emulsifier to keep the oil and vinegar from separating and to add another flavor profile to the dressing. "All you need is a teaspoon of egg white, Dijon mustard or honey," she says.

Raw or blanched vegetable dishes are a wonderful way to showcase the nuances of oils such as delicate grape-seed, rich walnut, and subtle hazelnut. With an experimental attitude, you can create your own variations. Substitute different oils and their acid counterparts, lemon juice and the assorted vinegars. Red and white wine vinegars are the most common, but those with a hint of sweetness like rice, white, apple cider and aged balsamic contrast bitter vegetable tastes.

Fruit concentrates add another dimension to salad dressings. Sold as fruit "molasses" in specialty food stores, these sweet, rich reductions can be made at home from fruit juices. Dowling suggests simmering clear filtered juices, like pomegranate juice, until reduced by three-quarters. Then add a tablespoon to your dressing for a fruity kick.

Custom dressings are just the thing for your salads to wear this season. Here are a couple recipes to start you off.

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