What Dressing to Use: The Best Sauces From Different Vegetable Oils

ny hastily sliced salad will become more interesting if you choose a successful dressing. The easiest way is to limit ourselves to ordinary refined oil without color and odor, it is always at hand. But the palette of flavors can be much wider: olive oil, pumpkin oil, sesame oil, nut oil, linseed oil… they are like perfume, an important touch in creating the image, and make a simple mix of vegetables and leaves appealingly magical. 

Extra virgin olive oil: the base for the perfect vinaigrette   

Extra virgin olive oil is nothing other than freshly pressed olive juice which is why it is known as extra virgin olive oil. Such oil, like a good wine, retains the unique flavor of olives from the very region where it was made: notes of flowers and fruits, sweetness and bitterness, the taste of artichokes and fresh herbs. Vivid individuality requires gentle handling: the “virgin” oil reveals itself best at room temperature, in combination with a light green salad, into which, for inspiration, you can throw a couple of strawberries or grated Parmesan. The basic olive oil salad dressing, a vinaigrette dressing, is very simple: one part vinegar, four parts olive oil, salt and pepper. All the ingredients need to be well whipped with a whisk to form an emulsion. If you add some basil, lemon zest or finely chopped garlic to the vinaigrette, they will give the green leaves a spicy touch. It is better to use apple or any fruit vinegar, or lemon or orange juice in the same proportion. And do not take too spicy greens, like cilantro, in addition to vegetables, because we value olive oil, first of all, its natural flavor.

Refined sunflower oil: making “Italian dressing    

Refined sunflower oil is the most neutral component of salad dressings: it doesn’t cause bitterness in dressings like olive oil and doesn’t make salads too fatty, which mayonnaise is prone to. And at the same time willingly absorb all the necessary flavors. Try making “Italian Dressing” with it – it’s the name of this dressing on the supermarket shelves, but if you make it at home it will be more flavorful and interesting. Mix the oil with minced garlic, dried Italian or Provencal herbs, hot pepper, lemon, mustard and honey for a wonderfully sunny taste that will turn a carelessly sliced cucumber into a complete dish and will fit wonderfully into all tomato compositions – from caprese to panzanella.

Unrefined sunflower oil: add bright spices to it  

In order to organically add spices to a sauce based on unrefined vegetable oil, preheat the oil to 60 degrees

In Russian cuisine, especially in the south, sunflower oil “with seed” plays the same role as olive oil in Italian: it is always and everywhere appropriate, but simply irresistible in warm salads with potatoes, roasted eggplant, zucchini and the like. It is in the “warm” neighborhood it opens so that the seeds begin to smell all over the apartment. If you want to muffle the cheeky flavor a bit, just dilute it with refined sunflower oil in proportions that are pleasant to you. There is also a peculiarity: when cold, oil “with seeds” rather poorly perceives the spices that you want to add to it, the oil turns out – separately, spices – separately. So before kneading the sauce, heat the oil to 60 degrees (but in no case try to heat it!), put chopped parsley, dill, a large chopped onion into it, and wait until it cools down completely. Ideally, it’s a good idea to let this mixture infuse for a couple more days, but even if you use it immediately, the seasonings will have time to become one with the oil. This sauce will be irresistible in all kinds of fish salads of different degrees of solemnity, even with a noble smoked salmon or lightly salted herring. You may do it in a different way and enrich the “seed” flavor with badjan, cinnamon and ginger; such a dressing will decorate salads with cabbage, carrots, apples and fresh cucumber. If all of the above are sliced into thin ribbons, mixed, and added a lot of dacha greens, you get an improved copy of “Freshness,” an elementary table salad from Soviet times. But with the powerful accompaniment of the dressing, you will hardly recognize the old familiar.

Sesame oil: best in Asian dressings  

Sesame oil is a clear illustration that an Asian note can be added to any dish, not necessarily an initially exotic one. Sesame oil comes in two varieties: raw sesame oil, more neutral, sweetish and almost odorless, and roasted sesame oil, which is tart, strong-smelling and has a noticeable bitterness. Both can be used in salad dressings, but the roasted seed oil can be dosed carefully, it interferes too actively with the flavor palette. Here’s a variant of an Asian dressing that works with raw sesame oil – mix soy sauce and sesame oil in equal proportions, add as much neutral refined sunflower oil, dilute with lime juice to taste, generously chop coriander into the sauce, add finely grated ginger and hot red pepper – and the theme of panasia will resound in full voice. This dressing works great with beans, chicken breast, cheese, and boiled eggs. Great for coleslaw – for example, coleslaw. Sounds good in combinations with raw zucchini, cauliflower or broccoli, tomatoes and bell peppers. And if you have roasted seed oil at your disposal – it’s better not to mix it into the dressing, but sprinkle it on the finished salad, for flavor.

Pumpkin seed oil: together with avocado – a healthy alternative to mayonnaise  

Pumpkin seed oil is a source of zinc (good for men) and a delicious dressing for fruit salads and traditional vinaigrette.

In the Styria region of Austria, where the world’s best pumpkin seed oil is still produced, it was initially sold in pharmacies as Viagra. The fact that pumpkin seeds – an excellent source of zinc, and zinc – is a male power, it is involved in the production of testosterone. And then the ladies discovered how any dish with pumpkin seed dressing blossoms: the sweet, ripe flavor of pumpkin seed oil goes great with fruit salads, and if you dress up a vinaigrette (the salad one) with it, you will look at boiled beets and canned peas with new eyes. Pumpkin seed oil is quite self-sufficient in salad dressings, but when added to fresh vegetables and greens its frank sweetness is appropriate to offset the bitterness of mustard and the sourness of balsamic or cider. It combines well with spices – saffron, turmeric, nutmeg, cumin. With the addition of pumpkin seed oil you can make avocado sauce, which is a healthier alternative to mayonnaise: just chop one ripe avocado in a blender, sprinkle it with lemon juice, add a chopped clove of garlic and 2-3 spoons of pumpkin seed oil. This dressing will turn even a trivial salad with crab sticks into a truly festive dish.

Grape seed oil: use it for frying and dressing  

Olive and grape seed oils are almost identical in their oleic acid content, and for culinary purposes grape seed oil with its light “meadow” flavor and subtle nutty note in flavor is perfect for those who do not like the tart grassy, throat tickling flavor of virgin olive oil. If you try it with garlic, Provenza herbs or pepper, it makes a wonderful dressing for any salad. Because of its neutral flavor, it’s perfect for a vinaigrette sauce, getting along with almost all vegetables and herbs. But if you want to include in a salad “heavy artillery” like pineapple, papaya, fried shrimp, chicken or duck breast – here too it is difficult to find an alternative. Despite its coziness and softness, in a salad it will be a noticeable link between the various ingredients. By the way, both breast and shrimp are best fried in the same grape oil: it gives a wonderful crust, but does not emit harmful volatile compounds – aldehydes, like sunflower oil.

Flaxseed oil: spices and fruits will help to remove the taste  

Flaxseed oil is the leader among oils in the amount of vegetable protein and Omega-3.

Flaxseed oil is unrivaled among its kind for its vegetable protein content (it contains almost twice as much as walnut oil). Plus it cleans blood vessels of cholesterol, and the amount of Omega-3 surpasses even fish oil. Therefore, vegetarians should definitely use flax meat as a substitute for animal products. Although linseed oil is quite controversial for its taste and color – cloudy, with a harsh bitterness and tangible “fishy” flavor, linseed oil is closer to medicine than to cooking. But its overt presence in salads is easy to smooth over: it is worth adding honey, yogurt or sour cream to flaxseed oil and the unpleasant notes disappear without a trace. The benefits, on the contrary, will be added: honey and dairy products have the property, as a catalyst, to more clearly manifest the healing properties of flax. Another way out is to use something fruity and sweet in the salad: prunes, raisins, fresh pomegranate or pear slices. Proven by experience: the annoying fishy flavor in the presence of such a concentrated sweetness is not felt at all. Here are some tips: prunes and raisins go well together with beets and chicken breast in salads, pears go well with smoked meats and spinach and pomegranate seeds are good to sprinkle on any green salad.

Nut butters: a treasured garnish to any salad  

Nut butters are a constant ingredient in Georgian cuisine. Ajapsandal and pkhali with it are awesome

In the fruit of any nut there are 15-25% of natural fats. The main thing is to get and preserve them, but it is not easy: for example from 1 kg of walnuts only 15 g of oil can be extracted. That is why the price for such a delicacy is high. It is worth paying for: in nutritional science walnut oils are valuable suppliers of healthy omega acids to our bodies, and in cooking they are the strongest agents of taste. If you replace olive oil in a basic vinaigrette sauce with hazelnut or walnut oil, brighten up the taste with lemon zest and mint, this sauce will be especially appropriate in salads with fruits and berries, tomatoes and roasted peppers, which for the fullness of sensations can also be sprinkled with caramelized nuts. Peanut butter is very widely used in Georgia; if you want to make ajam pandal or pkhali, don’t forget about it. You can add dried spices such as cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, and crushed cloves to the nut butter. The dressing turns even plain boiled carrots into an interesting salad. You won’t want to look away from young potatoes with red onion rings, greens and walnut sauce. Just don’t overdo it – put spices little by little and taste all the time: the sauce should give intriguing notes, and not clog the taste of the main ingredients.

7 rules of salad dressing:

  1. Infuse the oil with fresh herbs better cold, and with dried spices warm; the flavors will unfold more strongly. Do not overheat the oil in any case – 60 degrees is the maximum limit, especially for unrefined oils with their fragile flavors. You should let the oil cool completely before dressing the salad.
  2. If you’re making a warm salad, make sure it really stays warm – the hot elements should just be taken out of the crock-pot, and the rest, including the dressing, at room temperature, not from the fridge, otherwise the idea of a warm salad is lost. 
  3. For the ideal salad dressing you need the following elements: vegetable oil – the base, showing the rest of the flavors fatty and sweet, something salty (eg, soy sauce), something spicy (horseradish, mustard, ginger), something sweet (honey, molasses sweetness can also be in the oil itself – such as pumpkin or nut), something sour (lemon, vinegar) and something fresh (aromatic herbs). The way to be perfect is to find a balance between the two, so the sauce should be tasted as often as possible during the cooking process.
  4. Never serve the salad and dressing separately, as is the case with take-out salad packages. Pouring the dressing over the leaves at the last moment and already on the plate won’t mix them thoroughly, with the consequence that some leaves will be covered with a thick layer of dressing and others will get nothing. This is not tasty.
  5. You can mix the sauce well with a whisk, but if you don’t have much sauce, it’s not convenient. It is easier to combine all the ingredients in a small jar, screw the lid on tightly and give the jar a good shake.
  6. Mix the salad and dressing in the largest bowl you can find. This will allow you to do your job thoroughly without splattering half the kitchen.
  7. Once the salad is dressed – it should be eaten.

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