Dress Up

Lettuce Rejoice

Here are two vegan salad dressings, essentially “whole food plant based low oil,” using pantry items (well, my ongoing pantry of staples!). The first is really quick and the second super tasty.

Healthier Savory Dressing

Based on “2-Minute Oil-Free Balsamic Dressing” from Forks over Knives

2 parts good quality vinegar
1 part vegan mayonnaise
1 part nutritional yeast
1/2 part dried herb blend, such as Italian
Pinch ground mustard
Pinches of salt and pepper
2 parts water

Combine all ingredients in a lidded jar. Shake well to combine. Can serve immediately; refrigerate leftovers.

Notes: If using a tablespoon for “part,” this will make about 1/2 cup of dressing, enough for 4-8 servings of salad. (The original made just a single serving, 2 tablespoons.)

To minimize dressing and maximize the fresh flavor of the greens I add a smaller amount of dressing to the whole bowl of greens, before separating to plates — and toss not with a fork or something but with a clean hand. This coats all the leaves quickly and thoroughly. You might need another tablespoon of dressing as you go along. Be careful not to bruise (wilt) the lettuce by mixing too roughly. The hand-mix method works for any dressing.

By the way, while of course I rinse the greens (or buy them washed), I never obsess over drying the leaves thoroughly, just a good shake or two in the colander. Because dressing is wet!

The mayo here and Dijon mustard in the original recipe serve to emulsify the dressing. Mustard can be substituted here to reduce oil content to essentially zero. But this is a recipe where the mustard’s flavor stays prominent, too strong to me; going half mustard and half mayo is an option.

I don’t specify balsamic, because any good wine or rice vinegar works well. Cider vinegar though might be too harsh. Also, lemon juice or lime juice is a great substitute for the vinegar and in the same proportion. Particularly for breakfast salad, unsweetened orange juice (or any citrus juice) for the acid liquid is real nice.

Ranch-Style Cashew Dressing

Based on “Creamless Creamy Herb Dressing” from Cook’s Illustrated

Heaping 1/4 cup cashew butter
1/2 cup water
1 Tablespoon cider or rice vinegar OR lemon juice
1 teaspoon seasoned salt OR 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried onion
1/2 teaspoon dried garlic
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon or less red pepper (ground or flake)
1 teaspoon dried parsley OR dried cilantro
1 teaspoon dried chives (optional)

Combine all ingredients through peppers in a blender or food processor and run till combined. Then stir in dried green herbs for accent and flavor.

Or instead, combine all ingredients in a jar, mush the cashew butter with the water with a fork till loosened, then screw the lid on and shake well.

This should come to a dip consistency. For salad dressing, add a little water, just a tablespoon at a time, and stir to find that looser consistency. Yields about 1 cup.

Can serve immediately, but it’s best to wait at least a half hour for flavors to expand. Refrigerate leftovers.

Notes: The original recipe calls for soaking cashew nuts for a time, then draining and pureeing until smooth. Cashews have a neutral flavor. For mine, do choose a good quality jarred cashew butter, not roasted, which would call attention to itself.

The dressing will thicken when refrigerated, and it’s OK to thin again with a little water. The dressing refrigerated in its jar lasts over two weeks, but as time passes the strength of the herbs weakens.

Fresh chives, parsley or cilantro, finely chopped, can be used instead of dried, but the dressing may go bad in a few days.

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