Today we’re preparing a super simple, yet flavorfully complex, anchovy salad dressing. We’re combining grated Romano cheese with fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, and then adding in flavors such as oregano, anchovies, and fresh crushed garlic.
The end result is a dressing that’s a blissful combination of savory umami and seasonal freshness, making it great for light garden salads, heavier Greek salads, or even as a dip for homemade pitas.
But Why Make Your Own Salad Dressing?
1) It’s Super Simple. Now, just because something is ‘simple,’ doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth doing. In the case of chili paste, for example, making your own takes just a few minutes, but I never actually bother because the bottled stuff really is ‘just as good.’ Not only that, but my brand of choice has no ‘strange’ ingredients that defy pronunciation, and it really couldn’t be cheaper. So, why bother? I don’t. However, in the case of salad dressing, not only is it super simple to make, but I honestly do like mine better, and mine doesn’t have any of the sci-fi-esque ingredients that pollute even the best and most expensive bottled dressings available.
2) You Control the Flavors. Over the years, I’ve found that, among bottled dressings, Greek and Russian are typically my favorite flavors. However, I find that the flavor of these dressings are rarely consistent across brands. However, what if I prefer a Greek-style dressing that’s a little heavier on ‘brine,’ or that leans a bit more towards lemon than umami, or that’s more of a vinaigrette than a dressing? I can’t control that it’s bottled, but I can if I’m making the dressing myself.
3) Only Quality Ingredients. As I alluded to in my first point, a dressing should be composed of the ingredients that give the dressing flavor, body, and aroma, and nothing more. When you make your own, that’s all you’re getting.
Storing and Using Homemade Salad Dressing
1) Keep it Refrigerated. Yes, today’s dressing needs to be kept in the fridge. That said, it does keep for quite some time.
2) About Two Weeks Max. Today’s salad dressing should keep for about two weeks in the fridge. Meaning you can make this recipe well ahead of time.
3) Let it Warm before Using. Unless your using agents that prevent the oil from coagulating – and I suggest you do ‘not’ do that – homemade salad dressing has a tendency to ‘thicken’ in the fridge. The oil is a large part of the total volume of today’s recipe, and quality extra virgin olive oil solidifies into a jelly-like substance after reaching a certain temperature. To counteract this, simply let the dressing sit out for a few minutes, then stir, and you’re good to go.
Ingredient Notes, Tips, and Substitutions
1) Anchovies. These are one of the ultimate ‘love it or hate it’ ingredients, for which I am firmly in the ‘love it’ camp. However, why is that we see anchovies added so often to recipes that otherwise really have nothing to do with ‘fish?’ Anchovies find their way into ‘meatless’ garlic and oil sauces, otherwise ‘fish-less’ red sauces, steak sauces, salads, salad dressings – as we’re doing today, eggs, and a shocking number of roasted lamb recipes, especially those heavy on herbs and potatoes. The answer is ‘salty umami’ or ‘brine-flavor.’ Much like capers – for whom anchovies are a substitute, but curiously ‘not’ vice versa – anchovies are beloved largely for the sharp salty ‘pep’ or ‘kick’ that they bring to a recipe, and the vague background ‘meaty’ flavor that permeates the recipe.
2) Fresh Oregano vs Dried – and Possible Substitutions. In an unusual twist, dried oregano is generally preferred in the kitchen over its fresh counterpart – although there are exceptions. The one word you’ll likely always come across when reading about fresh oregano is ‘pungent,’ and occasionally ‘intrusive.’ Fresh oregano has a tendency to steal the limelight. For this reason, it’s at home in recipes with ‘powerful’ ingredients, or where other fresh ingredients are present. Things like Greek salads, whole roasted fish, grilled lamb, heavy sauces, or in herbal mixes for use in stuffing scored pork shoulders. In other words, recipes that aren’t ‘gentle’ or light. For virtually all other uses, dried oregano is preferable, since the drying process mellows it dramatically – which is almost the polar opposite of what happens with other dried herbs, where the drying process has a tendency to ‘concentrate’ rather than mellow the herbs’ most prominent qualities.
Substitution: Dried basil or thyme at a 1-to-1 ratio.
3) The Olive Oil. For dressings, as with dipping oils, I suggest using the best quality extra virgin olive oil you can find, simply because the oil itself is forming a large portion of the flavor profile.
More Summer Salad Goodness
1) Sweet Succotash. A mix of sweet corn and ripe grape tomatoes, tossed with buttery cannellini beans, this salad is a perfect addition to any barbecue.
2) Moroccan Tomato Salad. A surprise hit with my family, this Moroccan tomato salad is so simple, and yet so delicious, that it instantly won a place in my heart. Also, it pairs delicious with all manner of summer food, from BBQ to souvlaki to fish.
3) Summer Cucumber Salad. Crisp, refreshing, and taking just minutes to prepare while featuring a medley of Mediterranean flavors, this salad is perfect for adding a touch of ‘simple elegance’ to your next summer get together.
4) Layered Eggplant Salad. Breaded eggplant, combined with fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, and grated romaine, combine to create a delicious take on baked eggplant that’s sure to be the star of your next summer get together.