Today, we are going to talk about salad dressings. It may seem like a simple topic but it’s really much more than a “sauce” put on a salad. At Cafe 21, we make our salad dressing from scratch. We prefer vinaigrette of various flavors because they best bring out the taste of the vegetables without being too heavy. At times, we’ll do a special Aioli (a simple version would be mayonnaise seasoned with garlic – we put in much more flavor than that.) for salads that require a heavier dressing – like a Ceasar.
The truth is, a proper salad dressing is really there just to enhance the flavor of the dish, not to overwhelm it. I find a lot of places like to make their dressings very powerful. Their Italian dressings can be overwhelmingly vinegar based with a few Italian seasonings. Truth be told, if you visit Italy, this is not the dressing you’ll receive. The Italians place Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar on a table. They will mix the two on a plate for you to dip your bread or spread on your salad. That’s it. No “Italian seasonings”, no white vinegar. And it’s wonderful.
From ancient Greece and Rome, vinaigrette has been used to flavor vegetables and salads. In fact, it was so common to do, it really didn’t adopt an official name until the late 19th century. The French took the basic ingredients of oil and vinegar, added some pepper, salt and maybe a few herbs to make the “French Sauce”. Sound familiar? Today’s Americanized Italian dressing sounds a lot like that!
Of course, other vinegar’s can be used to enhance certain flavors. Try making some yourself. The basic ingredients are 2 parts oil and one part vinegar. Add any seasoning you wish, whisk it together and you’ll have your very own “house salad dressing”!
Try out salads and let us know what you think of our dressings. We look forward to seeing you at Cafe 21.
At Cafe 21, we use locally-grown, organic ingredients for a socially conscious farm-to-table San Diego dining experience. We use hormone-free meats and yeast-free bread in our dishes, and we hope you’ll visit us soon to see how a meal with us will transform how you think about food.